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Reconstitution of the Board of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) shows contempt towards recommendations Parliamentary Standing Committee and High Powered Committee of the Supreme Court

Written By mediavigil on Friday, April 03, 2015 | 9:06 AM

April 3, 2015: Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has reconstituted Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) as per a notification dated March 23rd, 2015 disregarding the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests and the High Powered Committee of the Supreme Court. The Parliamentary Committee observed that composition of "CPCB is dominated by Government representatives and constituted by central Government", in such a situation, "CPCB can not be expected to act as a watchdog of environmental protection." The Committee expressed "its displeasure over the fact that no qualifications or criteria have been fixed for Members of such an important technical and scientific body. The eligibility criteria for Chairman prescribing a person having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of matters relating to environmental protection or a person having knowledge and experience in administering institution dealing with the matters aforesaid are too general and vague as to accommodate anyone who is even distantly related with environment." The MoEF&CC's notification displays contempt towards the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

In exercise of the powers confened by section 3 and sub-section (6) of section 5 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 (6 of 1974), and in supersession of the notification of the Govemment of India in the erstwhile Ministry of Environment and Forests number S.O. 1621 (E), dated the 27th September, 2006, the CPCB has been reconstiuted. The Principal notification constituting the CPCB was published in the Gazette of India dated 21st September, 1974.

Dr. V. Maitreyan headed Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests examined the functioning of CPCB in its report presented to the Rajya Sabha on September 22nd, 2008 and Lok Sabha on October 21st, 2008. 

The Committee recorded that "key posts in CPCB and SPCBs are being manned by officers of Indian Administrative Service or bureaucrats who neither possess the necessary capabilities and expertise in properly managing and planning pollution control activities nor have enough time to pay attention to these activities for obvious reasons. This trend has led to virtual relegation and replacement of technically capable persons to the place of exile from the keyposts. The Committee has been informed that this point has been highlighted by Prof. Menon Committee set up by the supreme Court with regard to management of Hazardous waste. According to the report of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous waste, 77 per cent of Chairpersons and 55 per cent of Member Secretaries in different state pollution control boards are not qualified enough to hold the post. The Committee observes that this is a very disturbing trend and that this practice needs to be stopped forthwith." The March 23rd, 2015 notification of MoEF&CC reveals that the trend has not been reversed.  

The report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee reads: "The Committee’ expresses its anguish over the fact that the Central Board created for the purpose of control and abatement of pollution is being given such a raw deal so much so that it has virtually been reduced as a near defunct body. If all the powers and functions were to be concentrated into the hands of the Central Government/Ministry of Environment & Forests the very need to have such an apex body is untenable. The Committee feels that the country can ill afford to let this sorry state of affairs prolong any further as it has already started bearing the brunt of pollution and climate change and hence drastic measures are required to be taken. Central Pollution Control Board needs to be given adequate statutory and legal support to make it effective and functional and for this purpose its constitution under Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 needs to be urgently reviewed. The Committee recommends that environment protection should be included as an item in the seventh schedule to the constitution in the concurrent list and CPCB be brought under its ambit with all necessary powers and functions to meet the challenges that pollution and its after-effects pose before us without disturbing the federal character of our constitution. This new body should be given functional as well as financial autonomy so that it can discharge its duties without fear or favour." 

The reconstitution of CPCB in a business usual manner reveals that the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests has been totally ignored.

The report observed: "The Committee feels that although pollution in some form or the other has spread its tentacles throughout the length and breadth of the country, CPCB has failed in making its presence felt, as an effective controller, even after 33 years of its existence mainly because of the number of its Zonal offices being grossly inadequate and insufficient. It may not be feasible for a zonal office to cover three to eight states specially when the number of industries, vehicular load etc., has multiplied manifold in course of time. The Committee, 7 therefore, recommends that one zonal office should be established in each State so that CPCB in close coordination with State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) is able to keep a close watch on the extent of pollution and take strict action against violations of pollution norms. This will also help state Pollution Control Boards to derive full benefits of the Central Pollution Control Boards’ expertise."

The report recommended "CPCB/SPCBs should be actively and effectively involved in the process of issue of license for setting up of industries and an enabling amendment for the purpose may be made in the Environment Impact Assessment Act., 1986." 

It recommended, "There is a need to exercise caution over large polluting MNCs entering into the country. Trampling environmental health and safety regulations these MNCs ignore real development needs all in the quest for ever higher profits with the least risk and responsibility. These MNCs implement high environmental standards in their mother countries but have another set of environmental standards in our country. Such a disturbing trend calls for stringent rules and regulations and their strict enforcement in the larger interest of the country."

Members of the CPCB's Board includes Shashi Shekhar, Chairman, CPCB, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Advisor, Ministry of Environment & Forests, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests, Chairman, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Mines, Additional Secretary & Financial Adviser, Ministry of Environment & Forests, Chairman, Bihar State Pollution Control Board, Chairman, Haryana State Pollution Control Board, Chairman, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, Seema Arora, Confederation of Indian Industry, Mayor, Allahabad Nagar Nigam, Dipesh Sampat Mehta, Advocate & Solicitors (U.K), Deepa Gupta, Chartered Accountant, Meenakshi Kakkar, General Manager, Environmental Management Division, Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), Jiban Mahapatra, Chief Manager (Environment), National Aluminium Company Limited (NALCO) and Dr. A.B. Akolkar, Member Secretary, CPCB. It is noteworthy that neither has recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests, the recommendations of Supreme Court’s committee headed by Prof M G K Menon been complied with nor has any independent representative from environmental movement been made part of the CPCB’s board.  

CPCB has the powers and functions under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.  It provides technical services to the Ministry of Environment and Forests of the provisions of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. Its principal functions are mentioned in the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. These are: (i) to promote cleanliness of streams and wells in different areas of the States by prevention, control and abatement of water pollution, and (ii) to improve the quality of air and to prevent, control or abate air pollution in the country.
The National Air Monitoring Programme (NAMP) has been established with objectives to determine the present air quality status and trends and to control and regulate pollution from industries and other source to meet the air quality standards. 

CPCB also provides background air quality data needed for industrial siting and towns planning.  Besides this, CPCB has an automatic monitoring station at ITO Intersection in New Delhi. At this station Resirable Suspended Particulate Matter (RSPM), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Ozone (O3), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) are being monitored regularly. This information on Air Quality at ITO is updated every week.

The Parliament of India in its wisdom enacted the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 with a view to maintaining and restoring wholesomeness of our water bodies. CPCB also monitors and regulates fresh water because Water Quality Monitoring (WQM) and Surveillance are of utmost importance given the fact that most of the rivers are fed by monsoon rains, which is limited to only three months of the year. They run dry throughout the rest of the year and carry wastewater discharges from industries or cities/towns endangering the quality of our scarce water resources. One of the several mandates of CPCB is to collect, collate and disseminate technical and statistical data relating to water pollution. 

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660, E-mail:1715krishna@gmail.com, Web: www.toxicswatch.org

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