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Has The Pollution Control Commission Been Effective In Curbing Pollution In The NCR?

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Air pollution constitutes the most critical environment health risk facing our global population. It is estimated to contribute to seven million premature deaths every year. For 92% of the world population, it is estimated to breathe toxic air quality (WHO 2016). India has been endeavouring to reduce air pollution in the country since decades. Enactments and guidelines of courts to reduce air pollution includes Air (Prevention and control of pollution) Act, 1981, Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, L.K. Koolwal v. State of Rajasthan case upholding the Constitutional right to a clean environment, MC Mehta’s case Union Carbide corporation v. UOI propounding absolute liability principle and so on.

Regardless of the profuse of statutory and administrative framework, especially in the National Capital Region (NCR), the quality of air remains a cause of concern on account of the absence of vigorous implementation of measures and policies. In July 2019, India formally joined the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CACC) of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate change Mr Prakash Javadkar underlined India’s commitment to combat air pollution with a solution oriented approach.

In the World Air Quality Report, 2019, six out of the 10 most polluted cities of the planet were in India, all located in the NCR. In order to provide a permanent solution and establish a self-regulated, democratically-monitored mechanism for tracking air pollution in Delhi and adjoining states, the President of India, in exercise of the powers conferred by Clause (1) of Article 123 of the Constitution of India promulgated the ordinance “The Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Ordinance, 2020, on October 28, 2020.

Air Pollution In Delhi, India
A biker moves towards India gate on a smoggy morning in New Delhi India on November 3, 2019 (Photo by Nasir Kachroo/NurPhoto via Getty Images).

About The Ordinance

Composition of the New commission

  • The Commission will be chaired by a full-time chairperson who has been a Secretary to the Government of India or Chief Secretary to a State government.
  • The chairperson will hold the post for three years or until they attain the age of 70 years.
  • The Commission will have members from several Ministries as well as representatives from the States.
  • The Commission will have experts from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO)and Civil Society.


  • In matters of air quality and pollution management, the Commission will supersede all existing bodies such as the CPCB, and even the state governments of Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. It will have the power to give instructions to the states.
  • The CPCB and its public power has the power to enforce provisions of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, for air, water and land pollution. Their power will continue. However, in case of dispute or a clash of jurisdictions, the Commission’s writ will prevail specific to matters concerning air pollution.
  • The Commission will also coordinate efforts of state governments to reduce air pollution and lay down the parameters of air quality for the region.
  • It will have the power to restrict the creation of industries in vulnerable areas and be able to conduct site inspections of industrial units.
  • In the event of non-compliance with its instructions, the Commission may impose a fine of up to Rs 1 crore and imprisonment for up to five years.

The Role Of The NGT

  • Only the National Green Tribunal (NGT), and no civil court, will have jurisdiction to examine cases where the Commission participates.

Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control ) Authority (EPCA) Vs New Commission

Through the ordinance, the Centre has also dissolved the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA) for the NCR.

  • Jurisdiction: The EPCA, which was set up in 1998, looked at the NCR; the purview of the new Commission extends to “adjoining areas as well.”
  • Statutory Status: The EPCA was not a statutory body but drew legitimacy from the Supreme Court. It did have the authority to issue fines or directions and guidelines to the governments in other states.
  • However, it had no state representatives, just two permanent members.
  • The Commission, for its part, will have representation from the state as well. It is a permanent and statutory body.
The Commission has directed switching over of all industries in Delhi to PNG (Piped Natural Gas).


  • Experts say that the EPCA has grossly failed in cleaning the air even after being in force for more than 20 years.
  • One of the most important contributions of the EPCA is the notification of response action plan that describes the actions to be taken in the event of deterioration pollution, construction of the regional express transport system and adoption of BS VI fuel standards, among others measures.
  • The new Commission’s performance will be compared by changes in the status quo when it comes to ground implementation and strict action on polluters.


  • Jurisdiction: This Commission will look at the Delhi NCR and adjoining areas only, whereas, the mandate of the CPCB is to serve the whole country.
  • Stubble Burning: A straw regulation mechanism is being established for the first time.
  • Coordination: Earlier, there was no single body, authority, Ministry or state that was empowered or dedicated to ensure coordination among stakeholder states.


Over the past few years, it was noticed that sources of air pollution, especially in the NCR, consist a variety of factors viz. power, agriculture, transport, industry, residential and construction, all of which are beyond the local limits of NCR. This created the need for regional-level initiatives through inter-state and inter-city coordination, in addition to multi-sectorial synchronisation.

Soon after the Commission was formed, it identified dozens of urgent measures to curb air pollution and started working on them. From issuing directions to using bio-decomposer for stubble, directing switching over of all industries in Delhi to PNG (Piped Natural Gas) and directing them to use more efficient emission system, the Commission has attempted to improve air quality in the region.

The Commission has also started imposing heavy fines on violators including public sector undertakings. The Commission’s annual report, along with World AQR, will show the citizens how effectively the Commission has implemented its policies and whether the situation at the ground level has improved or not.

Featured image credit: Getty Images
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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