Air Pollution and Its Effect after Lockdown

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Pollution is one of the most dangerous problems affected by Earth. The pollution which is rapidly increasing and has the most harmful effect is air pollution. Due to industrial, technological development, an increase in the number of vehicles, increase in population, air pollution is increasing day by day.

India participated in the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm in June, in which decisions were taken regarding the preservation of natural resources and preservation of air quality and control of air pollution.  

To take further steps regarding Air quality and air pollution Indian government enacted specific laws under Article 253 of the Constitution a new act was introduced called Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 which extends to the whole of India. 

What is Air Pollution and Air Pollutant?

Section 2(a) of this act defines Air Pollution as the presence in the atmosphere of any pollutant.

Sec 2(b) defines air pollutant as any solid liquid and gaseous substance (including noise) present in the atmosphere in such concentration as may be or tend to be injurious to human beings or other living creatures or plants or property or environment.

Formation of Central and State Board

From section 3 of this act states the formation of Central Board for prevention, control and abetment of air pollution. Central Board constituted a nation-wide programme of ambient air quality monitoring known as National Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP). 

Section 4 of the act states to constitute a State Board for the sates that have State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) under Water Act, the board shall also be constituted as a board for prevention of air pollution.

Power of Boards

Power of Central Board is stated in Section 18 that the Central Board shall follow the directions of the Central Government while the State Boards shall follow the directions of the respective State Governments. Where a decision of the Central Board and a State Government direction are conflicting, the matter shall go to the Central Government for resolution.   

 Power of SPCB is stated in Section 22A of this act as- if there is an apprehension by a Board that any industry, operation or process is likely to emit any pollutant above standards laid down by the Board may make an application to the Court not inferior to that of a Judicial Magistrate of the First Class for restraining such person from emitting such air pollutant. 

Section 23 of the act states that the Board has the power to take remedial measure against the industry in which the emission standard is more than standard laid down on recipient of such information

Section 24 of the act states the power of entry and inspection on the State Board.

Section 31 confers the Power of giving direction as the Central Government the Board has the power to give direction to any person, authority or officer and such direction shall be issued in writing. Direction can be in nature of closure or prohibition of the plant and the stoppage or regulation of supply of life services. 

In M.C.Mehta v UOI (Brick Kilns) (1998) 9SCC 149 the CPCB in compliance with the SC order after giving notice to the industry direct them to close down and gave the direction that this industry could be open after being allotted a new site.

This act included the following things:

  • Prevention, control and abetment of air pollution.
  • Establishment of Boards.
  • Assign to boards powers and functions relating to prevention, control and abetment of air pollution.
  • Lay down the standards to maintain the quality of air.
  • It has precedence over other laws and therefore, the provisions of the Act shall affect the inconsistency with the provisions of any other enactment. However, it is subject to the Atomic Energy Act, 1962

Scenario of Delhi

From many years Air Pollution has been a major problem for Delhi. In 1996 Supreme Court issue a suo moto notice to the Delhi government, asking it to submit an action plan for clean air.  Day by Day people faced many problems due to increase in Air pollution, because of that Supreme Court ordered to run vehicles on CNG to take control of problem but this was short term solution of air pollution as the number of vehicles rapidly increased in Delhi. In 2016, Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) was introduced by the government, but it was also not that effective as numbers of vehicles are increasing per year.

Effect of Lockdown on Air Pollution 

India is home to the world’s most polluted cities, but we can see the effect of lockdown on air quality and air pollution. As the country is under lockdown industries, companies, manufacturing everything are closed, vehicles are off the road which leads to a drop in air pollution level. If we talk about Delhi the worst air quality city of India its condition has improved and has dropped up to a satisfactory level, it has dropped up to 71% in just week. Blue skies can be seen nowadays in Delhi. Other metropolitan cities have also recorded a drop in air pollutants as fossil fuel emission is reduced. The data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), part of India’s Environment Ministry, was collated by the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (CREA).  

The World Metrological Organization has stated that effect of coronavirus can be seen clearly on the improvement of air quality, but it is too early to assess the implications for concentrations of greenhouse gases, which are responsible for long-term climate change.  

Ironically, COVID19 has helped in increasing air quality that are possible when emissions are reduced on a global scale.

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