Home / Politics / Policy /  Pollution watchdog to finally get a full-time chairperson

New Delhi: Amid criticism by the civil society that the environment ministry has become a green clearance ministry, the Centre has taken a step towards the appointment of a full-time chairperson for the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India’s apex pollution control body.

The Centre has shortlisted 17 names for the post that has been lying vacant for over three years. A final decision is expected in a week.

“The decision on appointment of a full-time CPCB chairman will be taken within one week now. Environment protection is our topmost priority and thus we can’t allow such an important post to remain unoccupied," said a top official of the ministry of environment, forests and climate change involved in the process, who did not want to be identified.

The official said the selection committee which included cabinet secretary, environment secretary and department of personnel and training secretary has created a list that include names of a few scientists in the environment ministry, Indian Forest Service (IFS) and Indian Administrative Service officers IAS).

The names of Sunil Pandey (IFS), currently forest secretary of the Uttar Pradesh government, IAS officer Sanjeev Kumar, IFS officer Sanjeev Tyagi, J.S. Pandey, a scientist at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research are in the shortlist, as per documents accessed by Mint.

The list of selected candidates has already been scrapped twice by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) in 2013 and 2014. This time, the environment ministry official hopes a decision and consensus will be reached.

The post has been lying vacant since February 2012 when CPCB chief S.P. Gautam demitted office. Since then, various officers of the ministry have been handling the additional charge of CPCB chairman. Apart from criticism from the civil society, the Supreme Court had in last October pulled up the government for not making an appointment to the top post.

The CPCB was formed in September 1974 under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. It plays a key role in prevention, control and abatement of water and air pollution in the country. The board is also incharge of the installation work of real-time (online) monitoring system for effluent discharge from highly polluting industries into Ganga river and therefore, will play a key role in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project of cleaning the river.

Environmentalists too welcomed the move.

“It is totally unacceptable and unpardonable that such an important post has been lying vacant for so long. It clearly shows the amount of importance that pollution control actually carries in the country today. But if government is saying that CPCB chairman would be announced within next 7-10 days, then it is welcome," said Manoj Misra, convener of the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, an organization that has been working to clean and revitalize river Yamuna river for nearly a decade.

Misra, however, refused to be drawn into debate on whether CPCB chairman should be a bureaucrat or a scientist. “Whosoever is appointed—a scientist or a bureaucrat—should be the best person possible. He should be the right person," Misra said.

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