Poor implementation of remedial action plan for reducing air pollution has stalled new investments of over Rs 40,000-crore in the backward industrial district of Chandrapur for another six months.
The Union Ministry for Environment and Forests (MoEF) has extended the restriction on environment clearance for any fresh industrial project in the district until March 31 next year, based on a Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index.
The MoEF took the decision looking at the alarming levels of air pollution that pose a serious threat to public health and environment.
The ban was imposed in January last year after a visit of the then Union Minister for Environment and Forests, Jairam Ramesh. The district, the home of famous Tadoba tiger project, is ranked fourth among 20 cities with industrial clusters responsible for high pollution in the country.
The moratorium has withheld direct investment of over Rs 40,000-crore in Chandrapur since the last 18 months. The moratorium was to end on September 30, 2011 and ministry was reviewing the status of implementation of action plan for some time. But considering its poor implementation it was decided to extend it for six more months.
Talking to Hindustan Times, AN Katole of Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, and Chandrapur made it clear that no fresh industry would get permission for starting their units. “We received a communication in this regard from the union government. As per the new communication, the existing industries, including power plants could not be able for any expansion during the period,” he pointed out.
The government also decided to review the situation after six months and if feel that the pollution status is satisfactory, fresh permission would be given. “If not, such ban would again be imposed,” Katole further said.
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 generates 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.