The National Green Tribunal has directed states which witnessed a deterioration in the Air Quality Index to make “concerted efforts” to ensure an improvement in air quality.
The tribunal had earlier issued notices to the chief secretaries of several states after taking cognisance of the online air quality bulletins of the Central Pollution Control Board.
It had also directed the chief secretaries of the states where the AQI had dipped or continued to be severe, very poor and poor, to “take all possible immediate remedial measures”.
Referring to the AQI chart of various cities, including those in Punjab, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Meghalaya, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra and Bihar, from November 10 to 21, an NGT bench said, “It did not depict any satisfactory efforts by the authorities concerned.”
The bench of NGT Chairperson Justice Prakash Shrivastava judicial member Justice Sudhir Agarwal and expert member A Senthil Vel underscored that though the reports by various states mentioned that measures were taken to improve the air quality, there were no “fruitful results” and the air quality index in the cities “continued to be poor, very poor or severe with some fluctuation”.
“Hence, the state authorities are required to make concerted efforts so that the quality of air in the cities improves,” the bench said in an order passed on November 22.
It said that funds had been released for various states for implementation of the action plan to improve air quality for cities falling under Non-Attainment Cities (NAC) under the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) and the 15th Finance Commission.
“The actions to be taken for improving air quality should be in accordance with the approved action plan with priority to address the cause which is governing the air quality as per source apportionment,” the bench said.
It directed the states to disclose in a report “the non-compliant cities for which the funds have been received, the extent of the funds received and the details of their utilisation”.
“The states are also directed to ensure that the air quality does not dip in the cities under consideration any further but it shows a positive trend of improvement. Let the report covering the above aspects be filed within two days before the next date of hearing,” the NGT bench said.
The tribunal also sought a response from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change regarding its monitoring mechanism to oversee the progress of implementation of the action plan for each Non-Attainment City.
A non-attainment area is an area considered to have air quality worse than the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
In April 2021, the green panel constituted an eight-member National Task Force to monitor remedial steps to improve the status of air quality in the national capital and Non-Attainment Cities, consistent with the action plan which was already prepared and approved by an expert committee.
The matter has been listed on December 5 for further proceedings.