Breathing Clean Air: Institutional Frameworks

Air quality is a major issue across the globe, especially in the developing countries.  Developed countries have dealt with the issue in past through establishing adequate institutional frameworks and hence, effectively implementing policy and technological solutions. There is a need for exchange of knowledge and experience between the developed and developing world on evolving, integrating and enabling institutions for control of air pollution. This will help in effective enforcement of policies for control of pollution, which are otherwise not easily enforceable. 

Air quality is a concern in India considering its impacts over human health, and agriculture. Particulate matter is a pollutant of concern for human health, while ozone is a key pollutant responsible for decrease in agricultural yields. Indo-gangetic plains covering several highly populated cities and agricultural regions are under the spread of high pollutant concentrations.  Among the cities where air quality is monitored in India, less than 25% meet the annual averaged National Ambient Air Quality Standards. India was among the first countries in the world to make constitutional amendments to make provision for environmental protection after the Stockholm conference, 1972. The Air (Control and Prevention) Act of the country had been in place since 1981 with its amendments in different years. Central Pollution Control board (CPCB), State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) and different pollution control councils (PCC) were entrusted with the power and function under the Air Act. The principal function of CPCB is to improve the quality of air and to prevent, control and abate the air pollution of the country under the Air Act. The CPCB functions under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of the Govt of India as a statutory body. SPCBs and PCCs are the statutory bodies to prevent the environmental pollution under the respective state level Departments of Environment. Other than the nodal Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, there are other Ministries which deal with the sectors which contribute to emission loads and hence deteriorate the air quality. These Ministries like MoPNG, MoRTH, MoP, MNRE, MoHI, MoUD deal with issues related to fuels, vehicles, power, industries, and urbanisation and draft policies which help in reducing emissions from respective sectors. NITI Aayog is a planning body which not just help in planning but has recently also contributed to coordinate activities for air pollution control in India. The list of major measures taken by the Government of India for control of air pollution are tabulated below.

S.No Initiatives  
  Transport sector Timeframe
1 Notifying advanced vehicle emission and fuel quality standards– BS-VI from 2020 and BS-VI from 2020 2016
2 Introducing gas as an automotive fuel in many cities Ongoing- 2003 onwards
3 Introduction of fuel efficiency standards for cars and for HDVs in process 2015
4 Plan to introduce a voluntary fleet modernization and old vehicle scarappage program in India 2016 (currently being discussed)
5 Introducing National electric mobility mission plan 2020 2012
6 Introduction and enhancement of metro-rail and bus based public transport systems in select cities Ongoing -2002 onwards
  Residential sector  
1 Push to accelerate the LPG penetration program for cooking in households Ongoing – special emphasis 2015 onwards
2 Accelerating electrification of villages to reduce kerosene consumption for lighting Ongoing
3. Introducing energy efficiency labeling program for energy intensive devices 2006
  Power sector  
1 Ambitious targets for power generation through renewables (100 GW solar by 2022) 2015
2 Shift towards high efficiency super critical technology for power generation Ongoing
3 Converting coal based power stations to gas based in select cities -
4 Notifying new stringent emission standards for coal based plants 2015
5 Notifying new stringent standards for diesel generator sets 2016
  Industrial sector  
1 Notifying and revising standards for highly polluting industries Ongoing process
2 Pilot testing of emission trading scheme (ETS) in select industrial zones Announced in 2010
3 Continuous monitoring of select large industries Ongoing under the ETS
1 Imposition of ban on open agricultural residue burning 2015, NGT
2 Imposition of ban on refuse burning in some cities 2015 (NGT)
3 Launch of an official air quality index for Indian cities 2015
4 Setting up the Steering Committee on Air Pollution and Health Related Issues 2014

Despite the measures taken, the air pollutant levels have remained above the prescribed limits. One of the primary reasons is the inadequate enforcement of the standards and policies for air pollution control, which calls for coordination between several institutions and regulatory authoriti1es. The high pollutant levels in the country suggest that there is a need to review the existing institutional framework to control the level of air pollution all over the country.