The state’s Environment department wants to keep tabs on polluting industries at the click of a mouse.
If the department has its way, effluents discharged by industries will be monitored 24/7 from the control room of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, the watchdog of the department.
Environment Minister, Suresh Shetty, said his department was planning to set up a system under which all sewage treatment plants of polluting industries will be inserted with a chip similar to the SIM card of a cell phone. The chip will record the quality of water at the outlet where the effluents are discharged. The quality will be measured on basic parameters like carbon dioxide and biological oxygen demand levels.
This will tell the pollution control department whether industries were treating their waste water effectively before discharging it. The department plans to launch this online tracking system starting with the worst pollutants like thermal power plants and cement factories and then apply it to other industries.
Shetty was replying to questions raised by Opposition legislators in the state Assembly about pollution in Balganga river in Raigad district.
Peasants and Workers Party legislators Meenakshi Patil and Dhairyasheel Patil alleged that steel plants in Khallapur taluka in Raigad had polluted the river water by discharging chemicals causing the death of thousands of fish and destroying paddy fields.
Many industries set up sewage treatment plants because owners can get a tax exemption for them, but often they are not utilised because the operating costs are high. Shetty said the new system will keep a check on the polluting industries effectively. “The state amended its river basin policy in 2009, which categorised rivers on the basis of its usage. This was aimed to stop random effluent discharge from industries into our rivers,’’ Shetty said.
This means no new industries can be set up within 8 km on the either side of rivers like Bhatsa, Vaitarna, which provide water to Mumbai. For Balganga, no new industries are allowed within 3 km of either bank of the river. Non-polluting industries will be allowed in the next 5 km. Under the policy, all existing industries that have to achieve zero discharge levels by 2012.
Hindustan Times had first reported on this policy last year.