Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE) has released a short report on the 20 years of EPCA (background: MOEF&CC has recently announced reconstitution of EPCA with the inclusion of more institutions & individuals). Through analysis of publicy available data and RTI responses, LIFE has critiqued the performance of EPCA as an Authority for preventing pollution and improving the quality of the environment in the National Capital Region and listed recommendations for future.
*From the report*
On October 3, 2018, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change issued a Notification under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, reconstituting the Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA). The reconstituted EPCA has a significant larger number of Civil Society Groups and experts from institutions such as AIIMS, IIT, JNU, Centre for Energy Environment and Water (CEEW), TERI, Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation, Centre for Policy Research among others. The inclusion of a much wider section of experts and institutions in EPCA is a welcome step given the fact that till now EPCA had a very limited civil society representation.
The critical question arises as to whether the reconstituted EPCA will be able to serve as an effective Authority for preventing and controlling pollution in the National Capital Region (NCR). Based on publicly available information and RTI questions, our analysis reveals that EPCA has failed to function as an effective Authority for prevention and control of pollution. Firstly, despite having powers to issue Directions under Section 5 of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 (‘EP Act) and file criminal Complaints under Section 19 of the EP Act, EPCA has not issued a single direction or filed any Complaint before any Court in the last two decades. Though the law has empowered it as an ‘Authority’ under the EP Act, EPCA has essentially functioned as an advisory body to Government and assisting the Supreme Court. Secondly, EPCA’s public engagement has been almost non-existent, though the issue at hand is that of public health. Thirdly, though EPCA has powers to hear Complaints filed by environmental groups and concerned citizens, EPCA neither has a mechanism to adjudicate on citizens Complaints nor has it issued any orders based on Complaints filed by Citizens.
If the reconstituted EPCA is to become an effective Authority to prevent and control pollution, it must not follow in the footsteps of the earlier EPCA. After all, one must not forget that it is not just the lack of proactive legal action that is testimony of the failure of EPCA, the fact that National Capital Region has become a pollution hotspot in the last two decades despite having a dedicated Authority to prevent and control Pollution, is a reason itself for the reconstituted EPCA to not follow the precedent set by the earlier EPCA.
Download the report: 20 Years of EPCA.