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Non-Transparent Pollution Control Boards

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  • 19 Aug 2021
  • 6 min read

Why in News

Recently, a new report by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has revealed that most of the State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) and Pollution Control Committees (PCCs) in India remain non-transparent entities when it comes to sharing information with the public.

  • CSE is a public interest research and advocacy NGO based in New Delhi.

Key Points

  • About the Report:
    • The report is titled, Transparency Index: Rating of pollution control boards on public disclosure.
    • It has assessed the data disclosure performance of 29 State Pollution Control Boards And Six Pollution Control Committees from across the country. Of these, only 17 boards and committees scored 50% or above.
    • Pollution control agencies under Air Act 1981 and Water Act 1974 is to collect and disseminate information related to air and water pollution and also about its prevention, control or abatement.
      • The law also asks the boards to share the data in the public domain.
      • However, this is rarely done in practice.
    • The pollution control boards of Odisha and Telangana were the top performers and had scored 67% in transparency.
    • Putting in the public domain crucial pollution-related information, data and details of actions taken is critical. It can help policy-makers take the discussions to the next level of pollution management.
      • It can also reassure the people about the efficiency of these boards and committees.
  • Other Issues Pertaining to SPCBs:
    • More Responsibilities, Limited Institutional Capacity: Over the last two decades, SPCBs have seen an expansion in the scope and scale of their work but not in their budgets and workforce.
      • Remuneration is meagre, making it hard for the board to retain talent.
    • Shortage of Technical Experts: Further, an acute shortage of technical experts and other staff has reduced central and state pollution regulators to mere advisory bodies, leaving them unable to enforce air quality standards.
    • Top Administrators Have No Domain Expertise: Leadership positions in SPCBs are usually held by civil servants with no expertise in science or environmental studies--necessary for comprehending issues relating to pollution and climate change.
      • For example, the CPCB is dominated by government representatives and is constituted by the central government “which conflicts with the expectation of it acting as a watchdog”.
    • Low Motivation and Accountability: State board officials often have a diminished view of their own role and responsibility.
      • Also, the process of framing standards was not inclusionary and state officials were simply asked to implement these.
    • Poor Multi-Sectoral Coordination: The lack of convergence and coordination between various state and central departments often means that other departments do not implement SPCB directives.
    • Little Expertise in Monitoring: While the capacity for real-time monitoring increases every year, gaps in data collection and erroneous readings due to poor calibration remain.

Pollution Control Boards in India

  • Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB):
  • State Pollution Control Board (SPCB):
    • They supplement the CPCB as they are a statutory organization entrusted to implement Environmental Laws and rules within the jurisdiction of a state.
  • Pollution control committees (PCC):
    • They perform similar functions to SPCB. The difference between the two is that PCC belongs to Union territories.

Way Forward

  • Uniform Standards: There should be a uniform format for presenting annual reports and sharing information on websites.
    • The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) should come up with a website format for the SPCBs/PCCs and guidelines for framing annual reports.
  • Specialised Recruitment: There is a need for clear qualifications to be laid down for the recruitment of various members to the pollution control boards.
    • Having special knowledge or practical experience in respect of matters relating to environmental protection can be one of the criteria.
  • Strengthening Institutional capacity: Regulatory bodies that enable their implementation are strengthened with the technical and financial resources needed.

Source: DTE

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