The weakest link in air pollution fight

Source– The post is based on the article “The weakest link in air pollution fight” published in The Hindu on 2nd November 2022.

Syllabus: GS3- Environmental pollution and degradation

Relevance– Regulatory structure to fight pollution

News- The article explains the institutional constraints faced by the State Pollution Control Board and Pollution Control Committees of UTs. It also explains the mandate of these institutions.

What is the mandate of SPCBs? The SPCBs were initially constituted under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.

Under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, the SPCB mandate was

expanded to include air quality management. Subsequently, several new environmental

regulations added to their roles and functions.

Their primary role is to regulate emissions from point sources such as industries and power plants. More recently, they have also been tasked with guiding cities in meeting targets

under the National Clean Air Programme and spending Finance Commission grants for air

quality improvements.

What are the institutional constraints faced by SPCBs?

Composition of board– The composition of SPCBs is a matter of serious concern. Over 50% of the Board members across the 10 SPCBs and PCC represent potential polluters: local authorities, industries, and public sector corporations. Their presence raises fundamental questions around conflicts of interest.

There is a lack of multidimensional expertise in the composition of boards. Scientists, medical practitioners, and academics constitute only 7% of the Board members.

Leadership issues– The chairperson and the member secretary do not enjoy a long, stable, and full-time tenure. In many States, persons in these two posts hold an additional charge in other government departments. For example, the shortest tenure for a chairperson has been 18 days in  Chhattisgarh and 15 days for a member secretary in Haryana.

Human resources– SPCBs are critically under-staffed. At least 40% of all sanctioned posts are vacant across nine SPCBs and PCCs.

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