MIDC to take over all effluent treatment plants in Maharashtra to curb pollution
The development comes two years after the NGT asked four civic bodies, the state pollution board and the MIDC to pay Rs96 crore to restore the Ulhas River, which had been polluted by industrial wastemumbai Updated: Feb 27, 2017 23:59 IST
In a policy decision that protects the environment and hopes to improve water quality, the state government has decided to take control of all effluent treatment plants in Maharashtra.
Last week, the state environment department had directed the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) — one of the state’s industrial infrastructure development agencies — to take over all effluent treatment plants under its domain from private industries. The MIDC now has the power to monitor these plants and take decisions regarding the treatment of effluents.
The development comes two years after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) asked four civic bodies, the state pollution board and the MIDC to pay Rs96 crore to restore the Ulhas River, which had been polluted by industrial waste. The appeal is pending in the Supreme Court.
Untreated industrial waste is pumped out by effluent treatment plants from industrial areas near Mumbai and across the state, raising pollution levels at water bodies past the safe limit.
Satish Gavai, principal secretary, state environment department, told HT that common effluent treatment plants (CETPs) across the state — under the aegis of private industries — have failed to implement measures to reduce pollution and have profited through their CETP setups.
“MIDC now controls the industries’ water supply and electricity connections. If private players fail to discharge their duties efficiently, they will be taken to task,” said Gavai.
“An effluent treatment facility is an extensive business. If owners are required to contribute, either they default or cut corners. The only way to resolve this issue is to delink CETPs from owners and have a responsible independent agency operating them,” he added.
To minimise and control the pollution caused by industrial activities, the Union environment ministry established CETPs through the central and state pollution boards in 1991. Of 153 CETPs in India, 24 were set up in Maharashtra at 26 industrial areas such as Taloja, Dombivli, Thane-Belapur, Navi Mumbai, Ambernath, Tarapur. The MIDC industrial estate had given private industries and industry owners land to set up these plants.
MIDC officials said that the state would not be lenient with private industries. “The responsibility of the polluters will not be diluted. The role of the MIDC, however, will increase and the state will also allocate funds [for better functioning of CETPs],” said Rajendra Sonje, chief engineer, MIDC. “The main motto is to improve performance and efficiency. We have appointed an international consultant and selected 10 CETPs, for which a work order has been issued.”
Private CETP plant operators said that the facilities should belong to private players and that the government will not be able to make any drastic change to the pollution issue.” As CETP operators, the model was being run for the industry and maximum care was being taken from our side to control pollution. However, the government officials will now make a mess of it as they do not know how to operate such plants to the optimal level. We had been doing honorary service for over two decades and the responsibility to run CETPs should be only be given to us,” said a private CETP plant owner.
Additionally, hearing a public-interest-litigation (PIL) filed by NGO Watchdog Foundation at the Bombay high court (HC) in 2011, the HC told the state pollution control board to monitor pollution levels at water bodies where CETPs were discharging effluents and highlight the same on their website.
“While the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board’s data was from only a few CETPs, the findings saw pollution levels much above permissible limits. Since there will be centralised monitoring now, there will be better enforcement to protect the environment,” said Godfrey Pimenta, trustee, Watchdog Foundation.
“While the move is a welcome one, the MIDC has shirked its responsibility and turned a blind eye to malfunctioning CETPs over the past few years, passing the buck on to the operating association. This attitude has allowed polluting units to get away scot-free,” said Stalin Dayanand, director, NGO Vanashakti that filed the application in the NGT regarding the pollution in the Ulhas River. “The MIDC must act responsibly now and ensure that polluting units are prevented from resuming operations.”
Water quality at industrial areas in Maharashtra turns from ‘bad to very bad’
A study conducted by the Mahrashtra Pollution Control Board that identified water quality index (WQI) — the pollutant-measuring indicator of water bodies — of rivers across the state found that these locations near industrial areas have ‘bad to very bad’ toxic levels
Kunalika River, Arekhurd, Raigad
Rabodi Nullah, Thane-Belapur
Colour Chem Nullah, Thane-Belapur
Tarapur MIDC Nullah, Palghar
Pollution at Kasadi River 13 times safe limit
Untreated industrial waste pumped out by an effluent treatment plant from Taloja, near Mumbai, has raised pollution levels in the Kasadi River to 13 times the safe limit.
Results of water quality tests
In August last year, fishermen from the local Koli community collected water samples from the Taloja CETP pipeline areas discharging treated waste and samples from the banks of the river, and sent them for a water quality test at Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation’s environmental laboratory.The lab found that the levels of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) — the concentration of oxygen required for aquatic life — were 80mg per litre (mg/L). The test also found high levels of chloride, which is toxic to aquatic life and impacts vegetation and wildlife. According to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) guidelines, a BOD level above 6 mg/L cannot sustain fish species and levels above 3 mg/L make the water unfit for human consumption.
After the board identified chemical effluents the Taloja CETP that were polluting the river, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board directed the MIDC to curtail 40% of the water supplied to industrial plants at Taloja.