What is The Government’s Plan for A Breathable India?
Government initiatives reflect lack of seriousness on the part of the authorities.
Government initiatives reflect lack of seriousness on the part of the authorities.(Photo: Arnica Kala/ The Quint)

What is The Government’s Plan for A Breathable India?

Dear Dr. Harsh Vardhan Ji,
Honourable Union Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change

Greetings from concerned citizens and #MyRightToBreathe

The efforts to mitigate air pollution by the Government of India in general and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) in particular, seem to be in the right direction. However, over the past few years, these steps have left us confused as they reflect a lack of seriousness on the part of the authorities.

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Some steps are taken in the right direction. They include revising emission standards for polluting industries, acknowledging air pollution as a national health crisis and communication of the draft Nationhal Clean Air Programme.

However, I want to bring to your attention, through this letter, the ineffectiveness and inefficiencies around key decisions communicated to the public over the last few years. 

Should we listen to the MoEF&CC, Environment Pollution Control Authority, NITI Aayog, PMO or the ministry of power, which has been trying to extend the deadline by which thermal power plants need to implement emission standards.

Also Read : My Report: Hug Delhi Trees Instead of Protesting on Social Media

What is the Government’s Plan?

It all started with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) issuing letters to Delhi NCR states in December 2015. Then the EPCA came up with the graded response action plan for Delhi-NCR, which was later notified by MoEF&CC on January 12, 2017.

The letters, which were sent to Delhi-NCR by CPCB, were also communicated to 16 other states with 96 identified non-attainment cities (having pollution levels beyond prescribed limits) across the country, to formulate an action plan based on the directions of the CPCB letter dated 1 July, 2016.

On 2 November, 2016 another set of directions were issued under Section 5 of EPA, 1986 to Municipal Commissioners of NCR cities with a timeline of 10 days to respond with action plans to reduce air pollution levels.

PMO task force also submitted an action plan in December 2017 to reduce pollution levels in Delhi-NCR. Draft National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) was opened to general public for comments on 17 April 2018 for a month.

On 11 July 2018, the Niti Aayog came up with another action plan. This was called, “Breathe India: An Action Plan for Combating Air Pollution” and asked public for comments to strengthen it.

Although they seem to be concrete steps, there seems to be a lack of cohesion among various arms of the government. This is something we cannot afford during a public health crisis across the country. Every year, air pollution causes three million deaths and the number is increasing as I write.

How can the Right To Breathe be less important than anything else?

I write this letter to you with the hope that government agencies will co-ordinate better between themselves and help India to gain freedom from air pollution.

(Ravina Raj Kohli is a media professional. She can be reached at @ravinarajkohli.)

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