The union ministry for environment and forests (MoEF) has imposed a temporary restriction on environmental clearance for any fresh industrial projects in Chandrapur in eastern Maharashtra, along with 43 industrial clusters, in the country.
The restrictions are based on a Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index. The MoEF took the decision given the alarming levels of air pollution that pose a serious threat to public health and environment.
Chandrapur district ranked fourth among 20 cities with industrial clusters responsible for high pollution in the country. This was informed by the minister for coal and Statistics and programme implementation, Sriprakash Jaiswal, recently.
The industrial city has earned this dubious distinction due to mineral-based rapid industrialisation and reckless mining activity. There are around 35 coalmines, mostly opencast and of which, seven are in Chandrapur city itself. The presence of a super thermal power station — 2400- MW Chandrapur Super Thermal Power Station —in the heart of the city only aggravates the pollution scenario.
The coal mining industry being the main factor in the generation of coal dust emissions, leading to high presence of suspended particulate matter (SPM) in the local atmosphere. The effect of high concentrations of SPM adversely affects the local people’s health triggering breathing disorders and lung ailments.
Barring coal and thermal power stations, cement,limestone, paper mills as well as chemical and steel factories contribute to the deterioration of air quality in the district.
Nothing concrete has emerged from the 2006 Environment Status and Action Plan prepared by the Maharashtra State Pollution Control Board for the control of pollution in the district so far.
"The mineral-based industrialisation and rapid urbanisation in this district has albeit resulted in pollution and environmental degradation and its effects are being felt on a wide scale," the MPCB admitted in its recent report.
Till date, the restrictions have been lifted in 25 out of 43 clusters, out of which only 3 clusters cover coalfield areas. The restrictions in other clusters have been extended up to September 30 this year.
The Ministry of Coal had approached MoEF for exemption of coal bearing areas, including Chandrapur from the purview of these temporary restrictions on environmental clearance. However, it was not agreeable to MoEF as a result of which MoC moved a Note for consideration of Cabinet Committee on Infrastructure (CCI). The CCI in turn decided to refer the matter for consideration and recommendation of a Group of Ministers (GoM) at the first instance. The GoM has held four meetings in this regard.