Deadline nears, pollution board still far from online monitoring

  • Prabhjit Singh, Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
  • Updated: Feb 17, 2015 07:33 IST

In February last year, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) set a deadline of March 31, 2015, for online monitoring of industrial effluents, putting the onus of enforcement on the respective state boards. With the deadline fast approaching, the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) has not gone beyond forwarding the CPCB directions to industries across the state.

The plan envisaged Continuous Stack Emission Monitoring Systems (CSEMS) to be installed in each of the around 90 large-scale industrial units identified under 17 vulnerable categories for both air and water pollution, and also to be set up at the common effluent treatment plants (CETPs) catering to clusters with smaller units. Each CSEMS at a large unit related to water pollution costs at least `15 lakh, while that for air costs a little less, a senior PPCB official said. The cost has to be borne by the units, and till date not a single industrial unit has reported to the PPCB that it has installed the CSEMS.

The monitoring, in fact, is to involve closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras inside the units too for foolproof implementation.

However, on its part, not even the PPCB is ready. It awaits an agency that would set up servers at its Patiala headquarters for online monitoring of the CSEMS, as acknowledged by PPCB member secretary Babu Ram. Those found violating the deadline ought to be prosecuted under Environmental Protection Act, as per the letter of the CPCB to state boards.


PPCB chairman Manpreet Chhatwal told HT that 75% of the large-scale units had deposited 25% of the cost involved in installing the monitoring devices as bank guarantee with the PPCB. "We can check whether the units have actually installed this system only after the March 31 deadline," he added.

A senior PPCB official of the Mohali zone too maintained that PPCB officials would come into the picture only after the deadline. He, however, could not explain whether the PPCB experts were ready with their own software and devices for the 24x7 monitoring.


Industrial lobbies have their own reservations on the system, even as drains unabatedly carry poisonous effluents of the ever-growing industry into rivers or into the ground.

Punjab Dyeing Units Association president Ashok Makkar, based at Ludhiana, was sceptical about the plan: "Industrialists have already pooled in more than `150 crore for two CETPs (at Ludhiana), and they do not have any money now for this (monitoring system)." Jalandhar's leather unit owners also talk of another CETP and the upgrade of an existing plant instead.

The large units obligated to install the CSEMS include public-sector undertakings such as National Fertilizers Limited and the thermal power plants, besides several paper mills, distilleries, and pharmaceutical industries in the private sector.

What's the system

Continuous Stack Emission Monitoring System or CSEMS involves different types of sensors fixed inside pipes carrying liquid effluents, or inside chimneys for smoke emissions at industries

Readings from the sensors reach servers and then display on computer monitors through various technologies, such as optical fibre for detecting pollution levels in water

The monitoring computers for self-assessment at each unit are connected to common server installed at the state and central pollution control boards for parallel, 24x7 monitoring by the authorities.

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