The pollution control board’s crackdown on cement mixing plants in the city continues as fresh notices were issued to two ready-mix concrete (RMC) plants at Kurla on Wednesday.
An RMC plant is a factory or batching plant where cement mix is made in large quantities, mostly to be used for construction. Without safety norms in place, the plants can cause air and noise pollution.
For the past three years, several complaints by Kurla residents regarding two RMC plants have fallen on deaf ears. Both plants are located 100m from each other, near a residential area on LBS Marg.
In November last year, city-based NGO Watchdog Foundation discussed the matter with top officials from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB). Following this, regional officers visited the site last week.
In June last year, HT had reported that the MPCB issued closure notices to 32 RMC plants. In a sudden U-turn, 15 — including the two Kurla plants — were given consent to resume operations, provided they undertook measures to reduce pollution.
“During our visit, we observed that the plants were violating the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and solid waste management rules across seven parameters,” said MR Lad, regional director, MPCB. “The plants were given 15 days from Wednesday to reply to the MPCB’s member secretary, else we will issue closure notices.”
Residents said the plants have become a serious health hazard for the whole neighbourhood. “Thousands of schoolchildren have been passing by these plants and breathing dust-laden air daily for the past three years. Since the plants do not have a dust separation system, particulate pollution enters our home and we are forced to keep doors and windows shut,” said a Kurla resident who stays near both plants.
According to MPCB guidelines, RMC plants must create a 100m buffer zone from residential areas and arterial roads. However, most plants do not follow this.
Environmental activists said the plants were served closure notices in January last year but obtained the MPCB’s consent to operate. “Now that the MPCB has observed violations, it is imperative that the plants’ electricity and water supply is disconnected till they respond,” said Godfrey Pimenta, trustee, Watchdog Foundation. “There is a bus stop opposite the plant. As a result, commuters have been inhaling the dust for years. This can lead to severe respiratory ailments.”
A study by Environmental Policy and Research India (EPRI) at cement batching plants in Mumbai recorded the concentration of PM2.5 and PM10 — small pollutants that can easily enter our lungs and cause ailments — between 500 and 600mg per cubic metre (ug/m3), as against the safe level of 60ug/m3 and 100ug/m3.
What is an RMC plant?
An RMC plant is a factory or batching plant where cement mix is made in large quantities.The mix is then delivered to construction sites in trucks with rotating mixers that prevent it from drying. A RMC plant can produce 80 to 100 metric cubes of concrete a day.
Pollution norms violated by Kurla RMC plants
The units are not properly barricaded
The area where raw material is stored is not covered properly
There are no water sprinkling arrangements or fogging systems to suppress dust emissions
The premises are not cleaned daily owing to a lack of industrial vacuum cleaners
There are no tyre-washing arrangements for vehicles
Arrangements to treat, collect and manage waste are poor
Directives for RMC plants to operate:
The plants should have a dust separator and collector system
A mechanism to sprinkle water across the plant is needed for dust particles to settle
Water must be sprinkled after trucks leave the compound
A compound wall must be built around the machine
Trees must planted around the machine
A system to collect and dispose waste is needed
The plant should be at least 100m from residential areas and arterial roads
(Source: Maharashtra Pollution Control Board)