The Government of India proposes to install large air cleaning machines in major cities like Delhi and Mumbai to clean-up the air.
Most of the air pollution is generated either by vehicles or by industries. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is responsible for controlling this pollution. We have stringent laws which stipulate the level of carbon dioxide, nitrogenous and sulphurous gaseous that can be emitted by the vehicles and industries. However these clauses are not implemented by CPCB. The result is that we have polluted the air. Now, having polluted the air, we want to install large machines to clean-up the same.
The pollution by industries and vehicles would be controlled at its source and air would become clean by itself if the Central Pollution Control Board discharged its responsibility. To give an example, the Chinese Government ordered that all polluting industries around Beijing would be close for one week and the air in Beijing became clean when President Donald Trump was visiting Beijing. This incident establishes that the problem of the pollution is really that of enforcement of the pollution control laws in which Central Pollution Control Board is failing.
A parliamentary committee report (see here) noted that Central Pollution Control Board is being reduced to near defunct body. It said that the key post in Central and State Pollution control Boards are being filled up by officers of the Indian Administrative Services or bureaucrats who do not have the capabilities and expertise in managing pollution control activities.
The Central Pollution Control Board is a body that is directly governed by the Ministry of the Environment. As a result The Ministry appoints officers who are amenable to being pushed around by the political and IAS bosses of the Ministries. The Ministry of environment had proposed that independent National Environment Protection Authority may be established which may be responsible for implementing the pollution control laws such as controlling air pollution. Unfortunately the Government has taken no steps to establish an Independent Regulatory Authority like the telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), which have very effectively dealt with regulation of the telephone companies.
The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) mentioned in a report (see here) that after notification of the rules for e-waste management, CPCB had not put any of the mechanism in place for the enforcement of those rules. The conclusion is the CPCB is simply ineffective in implementing the Pollution Control laws.
It must also be admitted that pollution control boards are do not have adequate powers to control pollution. They are not allowed to impose fines or to issue of closures notices. The judicial system of country is slow and corrupt. This severely handicaps the pollution control boards and they are not able to control pollution with their limited resources. (see report here)
The suitable way forward is that we should make CPCB an independent authority and give it adequate powers to punish the offenders. That would remove political and administrative interference and also make CPCB effective. If this is done, the air pollution would itself be controlled have no need to establish large machines to clean-up the air. Instead the Government wants t establish air-cleaning machines.
These machines too do not have a very good track record. Such a machine was installed in Beijing in China (as shown below) and the results have not being favourable. The cost of the machine was Rs 1 crore. Designer and architect of this machine Daan Roosegaarde has said that “the area which provides clean air, is too small – 30,000 cubic meters of clean air purified. Such small technology will not able to clean even the air of the city. The purpose of the tower is to make a statement that we have not forgotten our problems and we will never stop searching for solutions.”
The Government is allowing the CPCB not to implement the laws and do its business as usual and then establish ineffective machines to clean up the air.
It is time that the Government wakes up and takes strict action to control air pollution at its root and does not get into the double loss of first creating pollution and then spending money by installing machines which are ineffective.