From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Role of CPCB and SPCBs
Mains level : Paper 3- Issues faced by SPCBs
The article deals with the issues faced by the State Pollution Control Boards.
Role of CPCB and State Pollution Control Boards
- The pollution crisis is a highly complex, multi-disciplinary issue with several contributory factors.
- To address this crisis, India has a plethora of rules, laws and specialised agencies which, at least on paper, seem very impressive.
- The footsoldiers of India’s battle against polluters are its officials at the state pollution control boards.
- The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) based in Delhi is generally well funded and resourced, unlike the state pollution control boards (SPCBs) that are in charge of implementation of the rules that CPCB writes.
5 issues faced by SPCBs
1) Shortage of Staff
- As an illustration, the Haryana State Pollution Control Board has been operating with a 70 per cent staff shortage.
- What this means practically is that a single officer is tasked to handle the demands of pollution control for an entire district without any subordinate technical staff.
- This comes at the cost of not being able to do inspections and other core pollution control work.
2) Lack of specialisation
- The officers at the SPCBs do not get to develop any specialisation.
- The CPCB has a decent workforce and robust laboratories, where scientists once recruited get to work and excel in a particular area.
- On the other hand, SPCBs don’t have such a stratified system, and the same officer is in charge of all these pollution categories, making it impossible to gain expertise and excel in any one area.
3) Lack of legal skills to take on pollutors
- SPCBs lack the necessary legal skills to take on polluters.
- While a legal cell may exist at the head office of a SPCB, they have few full-time public prosecutors there.
- As a result, engineering graduates in district SPCB offices — have to play the role of lawyers and develop legal paperwork that often falls short of holding polluters to account.
- Clerks and superintendents at courts often refuse to file cases, pointing at flaws that someone not trained in law would naturally make.
4) Lack of funds
- SPCBs are chronically underfunded.
- For instance, the funds of several SPCBs such as Haryana’s largely come from “No Objection Certificates” and “Consent to Operate” that the boards grant to industries and projects, rather than budgetary allocations by the government.
- Owing to this, SPCB officials are unable to spend on critical functions.
5) Additional duties
- SPCB officials are at times given additional responsibilities that are unrelated to pollution control.
- Haryana’s SPCB, for instance, has poultry farms under its ambit.
Consider the question “Dealing with the crisis of air pollution need coordination at various levels and the State Pollution Control Boards play an important role in it. In light of this, examine the challenges and suggest the steps needed to empower them.”
India must empower SPCBs to act by giving them the necessary funds, human resources, tools and technologies.