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Pollution Control Boards failing to deliver their mandate effectively: Centre for Policy Research

New research by Delhi-based think tank has revealed findings about the performance of India’s Pollution Control Boards.


IN a new series of working papers released by the Centre for Policy Research (‘CPR’), it has been found that the State Pollution Control Boards (‘SPCBs’) and their counterparts, the Pollution Control Committees (‘PCC’) in Union Territories, are failing to effectively deliver their mandate. These institutions lack the resources and the capacity to perform the functions assigned to them, the papers note.

CPR is one of the leading public policy think tanks in India. SPCBs and PCCs are executive agencies responsible for several vital functions to curb air pollution.

CPR’s working papers, titled The State of India’s Pollution Control Boards, examine the institutional structure and capacity of nine SPCBs, in Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal, and one PCC, in Delhi.

The findings of these papers are based on information received in response to applications filed under the Right to Information Act, 2005 in August and September of last year. These are supplemented by information gained from a series of semi-structured, key informant interviews with current and former senior leadership of SPCBs and the Central Pollution Control Board.

The papers have analysed the composition of the SPCBs, the qualifications of their leadership, and the adequacy of their capacity to perform their statutory functions.

As per their findings, there is a minimum vacancy of 40 per cent among all posts across the nine SPCBs and one PCC. Vacancy figures for technical positions are as high as 84 per cent in Jharkhand, with Bihar and Haryana having over 75 per cent positions vacant.

Seven of the eight SPCBs have at least 40 per cent vacancies in the technical staff category. The high vacancy levels impede the regular functioning of the Boards, the study points out.

Such vacancies have a detrimental bearing on the ability of the Boards to monitor industrial compliance, finds CPR’s study. Significant challenges in hiring mean that in at least four states, namely, Jharkhand, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, engineers have less than a day to inspect, evaluate and approve each consent application, CPR’s study reveals.

In several states, the post of chairperson is not full-time. Member Secretaries in at least Delhi, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal are part-time and hold an additional charge in other government departments. Therefore, the leadership at these agencies cannot fully focus on their functioning, CPR’s study has observed.

The data also revealed that several Chairpersons and Member Secretaries have held their posts for less than a year in nearly every state, with the shortest tenure for a Chairperson being 18 days in Chhattisgarh, and for a Member Secretary being 15 days in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

Frequent transfers of the Board leadership make it challenging for them to conceptualise and deliver on long-term plans.

Individuals representing potential polluters such as local authorities, industries and public sector corporations account for 53 per cent of the members across the nine SPCBs and one PCC, as per the working papers. This raises serious questions of conflict of interest.

At the same time, scientists, medical practitioners and academics constitute only seven per cent of the Board members.

The statutory requirement of having at least two Board members who have knowledge of and experience in air quality management is not met by most Boards. The three Boards – in Punjab, Bihar and Uttarakhand – which claim that their two members have the necessary qualifications, have not provided any evidence to substantiate this claim, the CPR papers also show.

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