From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Airshed
Mains level : Transboundary nature of Delhi Air Pollution Menace
- The annual recurrence of ‘severe’ air quality levels in the Delhi-National Capital region and surrounding areas during winter often leads to the misconception that air pollution is a seasonal issue primarily driven by farm residue burning.
- However, this perception falls short of the complex, year-round, multi-source, and multi-pollutant nature of the problem.
This article highlights the need to adopt a comprehensive, science-backed approach to address air pollution effectively.
Year-round, Multi-source Pollution
- Misconception: Labelling air pollution as a ‘winter’ problem caused solely by farm residue burning oversimplifies the issue.
- Complex Reality: Air pollution is a continuous problem arising from various sources, not confined to a particular season.
- Ineffectiveness of City-Centric Strategies: Current initiatives like the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) focus on cities, ignoring the transboundary nature of pollution.
Transboundary Air Pollution
- Understanding Dispersion: Pollution emitted in one region can significantly impact air quality in another due to transboundary dispersion.
- Inter-state Implications: Weather, topography, and climatic conditions influence transboundary dispersion, creating challenges for downwind regions.
- Limited Jurisdictional Power: Downwind regions often lack the authority to regulate upwind pollution sources, rendering mitigation strategies ineffective.
Need for Airshed Air Pollution Management
- Defining Airsheds: An airshed is a geographic area governed by common meteorology, topography, and climate, impacting air mass dispersion.
- Global Precedents: Countries like the United States, China, and the European Union have implemented effective regional airshed-level frameworks.
Policy Levers in India
- Existing Legal Framework: The Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital and Adjoining Areas (CAQM) Act, 2021 recognizes the transboundary nature of air pollution.
- Expanding Scope: The Air Act, 1981, can be expanded to cover multiple jurisdictions and pollution sources under a single air quality management framework.
- Global Experiences: Drawing lessons from frameworks like the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) in the US and the Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP) in Europe can inform India’s approach.
- Accountability: Holding upwind polluting regions accountable for transboundary pollution remains a challenge, necessitating legal mechanisms and cooperation.
- Conflict Resolution: Implementing a formal procedure for resolving conflicts arising from the interpretation or application of airshed-level frameworks is crucial.
- Political Will: Ensuring consistent implementation of air quality management measures despite bureaucratic cycles and political considerations is a persistent challenge.
- Cross-Boundary Cooperation: Encouraging cooperation between jurisdictions and regions to collectively address air pollution requires coordinated efforts.
- Data Integration: Integrating data from diverse sources and ensuring uniformity in air quality monitoring can be challenging.
- Legal Framework Expansion: Expanding the scope of the Air Act, 1981, to encompass multiple jurisdictions and pollution sources under a single air quality management framework.
- Global Lessons: Drawing lessons from international frameworks like the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) and Long Range Transboundary Air Pollution (LRTAP) to inform India’s approach.
- Accountability Measures: Legally binding upwind polluters to address transboundary pollution through mitigation plans.
- Scientific Independence: Separating scientific and technical activities from political negotiations to ensure data-driven decisions.
- Conflict Resolution Mechanism: Implementing a mechanism for resolving disputes arising from framework interpretation or application.
- Promoting Change: Integrating an airshed-level framework within existing legal structures or introducing a new framework to deliver cleaner air for citizens.