In view of the inadequacy of measures taken so far on the issue of remedial action for air pollution in 124 Non-Attainment Cities (NACs) and other air polluted areas where air quality is poor and noise pollution is acute, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Central Government for constitution of an eight-member National Task Force (NTF).
The NTF will be headed and coordinated by the Secretary MoEFCC with nominees (not below the rank of Joint Secretaries) of Ministries from Housing and Urban Development, Road Transport, Petroleum, Power, Agriculture, Health and Chairman, CPCB.
The mandate of the NTF will be to monitor remedial steps to improve the status of air quality in NACs consistent with the action plans already prepared and approved by the Expert Committee and directions of NGT, including the last order dated 21.08.2020 and also to monitor compliance of noise control norms.
The NTF will monitor 124 cities across nation, including seven polluted cities of Odisha namely Bhubaneswar, Cuttack, Angul, Talcher , Baleswar, Rourkela and Kalinganagar.
The Government of India has prepared the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) proposing to reduce the pollution in next 10 years - 35% in next 3 years, 50% in next 5 years and 70-80% in next 10 years. But the NGT observed that instead of getting reduced, pollution is increasing.
The data shows that as against number of NACs being 95 in the year 2017, the number has increased to 102 in the year 2018, then to 122 and now to 124. Further, data of air quality for the entire country is still not available in absence of adequate monitoring stations. Thus, the action taken so far is inadequate, calling for intervention of the NGT.The NGT pointed out that there are 4,000 legal waste dump sites (including in all NACs) in the country as per CPCB report.
The NGT said 124 major cities in the country are continuously non-compliant with the prescribed standards of air quality for more than five years, which is a matter of serious national concern and needs to be addressed urgently at all levels by involvement of highest authorities. India has world’s highest death rate from chronic respiratory diseases.
About 1.5 million people in India die annually due to air pollution. The Supreme Court also observed that 40% school children suffer from lung damage.
Air pollution can lower children's IQ, hurt their test scores and increase the risks of autism, epilepsy, diabetes and even adult-onset diseases. Severe air pollution is leading to diseases and irreversible damage to health.