Rising air pollution: India's commitments to a cleaner environment

Present conditions around Delhi-NCR violate the fundamental right of living in clean air. India's commitments to this cause cannot be carried out by legislation alone; authorities need to play their part too

Updated: Nov 20, 2019 12:49:41 PM UTC
Image: Yogendra Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The Supreme Court of India, on many occasions, has earlier declared that right to life, under Article 21 of the Constitution of India, includes the right to a clean environment. The increase in the air pollution levels in Delhi-NCR is now a major challenge for governments, as millions of human lives are in jeopardy. Though there are legislations to deal with various aspects of pollution, this depicts the failure of the authorities in implementation.

At various international conferences, India has been party to discussions on clean measures. Judicial orders alone cannot reduce the pollution levels; effective government participation is key to curtail pollution.

Present pollution levels have triggered the Supreme Court to take urgent action. It has now directed that construction as well as demolition activities be stopped, and garbage-burning prohibited. The penalty has been fixed at Rs 1 lakh for construction and demolition activities, whereas for garbage burning, penalty has been set at Rs 5,000. The Delhi government and municipal corporation have been directed to chalk out immediate plans to ensure that waste material is safely junked, and no open dumping takes place. The Court also advocated for water sprinklers and dust suppressers to be used to bring the situation within manageable limits, and expressed serious displeasure at rampant stubble burning, which it has ordered a complete half of.

India is party to the landmark Paris Agreement, the primary aim of which is to keep global temperature rise this century well below two degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels. All state parties have to put forward their best efforts in combating climate change through this agreement, with nationally determined contributions, known as NDCs. The agreement places great emphasis on building consensus and works on a model based on cooperation among member states. It also includes a new technology framework and enhanced capacity building structure. India intends to reduce the emissions intensity of its GDP by 33 to 35 percent by 2030, from 2005 levels. India further intends to achieve 40 percent cumulative electric power installed capacity from non-fossil fuel based energy resources by 2030.

India has also formally joined a coalition of countries named the Climate & Clean Air Coalition (CCAC), to work on best practices for the effective implementation of its National Clean Air Programme (NCAP).

Present conditions in certain parts of the country present a challenge to the vital right of living in clean, smoke-free air. India’s international commitments to adopt cleaner energy sustainable production and environment-friendly policies to promote clean air can only achieved successfully if the authorities implement the measures envisaged in the legislations strictly.

Rajdeep Banerjee is an advocate and legal consultant and Joyeeta Banerjee is a legal consultant and practicing advocate

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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