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Govt hasn’t done enough on road dust, landfill fires to cut NCR air pollution: Parliament panel

Standing Committee says environment ministry has not acted on the recommendations it had formulated and submitted to Parliament in August 2018.

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New Delhi: The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment, Forests and Climate Change has said the government has not done enough to curb air pollution in the National Capital Region (NCR) when it comes to paving roads, controlling road dust, and reducing landfill fires.

The committee’s action-taken report was presented in the Rajya Sabha Wednesday. It details steps taken by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) on recommendations made by the committee, to tackle air pollution in Delhi-NCR, in another report tabled in Parliament on 7 August 2018

The committee is headed by Congress MP Jairam Ramesh, and includes prominent names like Anil Baluni and Anantkumar Hegde of the BJP and Asaduddin Owaisi of the AIMIM. Among the concerns flagged by the committee was unpaved roads causing dust in the NCR region.

According to the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), a public policy think-tank, road dust accounts for between 11 to 14 per cent of air pollution in the capital. 

The ministry, in its reply, provided details of action taken by the municipal corporations of Delhi between March 2020 and August 2020. The standing committee, however, did not accept this response. 

“The action taken by other respective governments of NCR in the matter has not been furnished by the ministry,” said the committee, adding, that the issue must get due attention of all the governments concerned.  

In 2018, the committee had recommended that the railway and civil aviation ministries contribute funds towards the mitigation of air pollution in the NCR region. The MoEFCC forwarded a response from the railway ministry to the committee, stating that since the railways were already taking a number of steps to reduce carbon emissions, “it may not be feasible for it to spare funds” for air pollution control in the NCR. 

The committee was unhappy with the lack of response from the civil aviation ministry, saying “after making recommendations/observations, the committee expects a pointed reply from the ministry in respect of the said recommendations/observations”.

“The ministry (of environment) should, therefore, furnish the response in respect of the ministry of civil aviation to the committee at the earliest,” it said.

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Landfill fires and other issues

In its 2018 report, the Standing Committee had also recommended the MoEFCC work towards preventing fires in landfills, and take the help of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CSIR-NEERI) to curb them. It had also suggested that steps be taken to limit air pollution caused by construction activities. The ministry did not, however, furnish a response in the report submitted to Parliament Wednesday.

The committee said it was “perturbed” that despite two years having passed, the ministry “failed to furnish any reply” to these particular issues. 

“The said recommendations/observations of the committee seem to have not been given due importance and weightage,” read the report. “This casual and insincere attitude of the ministry is totally unwarranted and uncalled for. The committee, therefore, desires that the ministry should furnish a consolidated reply to recommendations/observations contained in the above paras at the earliest for the consideration of the committee.”

Effect of air pollution on health and environment

On the effect of air pollution on the environment and health, the ministry said it had awarded CSIR-NEERI the task of producing a report on the contribution of stubble burning in Haryana and Punjab to the air quality in Delhi.

The ministry also said it had initiated a National Environmental Health Profile study, which will look at the effect of air pollution on health in 20 cities, conducted by medical institutes and state pollution control boards. 

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

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