Mahul firms catching up with state’s pollution abatement plan: Environment Minister
The air pollution is being caused by emissions from refineries and thermal power plants that operate in Mahul-Trombay industrial areaUpdated: Sep 25, 2020, 10:06 IST
Four companies located at Mahul --- considered to be Mumbai’s “gas chamber” -- have started complying with their pollution abatement commitments that were made under the Maharashtra environment department’s action plan, state environment minister Aaditya Thackeray has said.
Residents of the Mahul-Trombay industrial area have been demanding their rehabilitation for the past two years on health grounds because of severe air pollution.
The air pollution is being caused by emissions from refineries and thermal power plants that operate in Mahul-Trombay industrial area.
Earlier, though several court orders had directed a reduction in emissions caused due to logistic services, storing oil, gas and chemical items, and oil companies releasing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) during loading, storage and unloading of hazardous chemicals, the directives were not adhered to.
Industrial firms such as Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. (BPCL), Aegis Logistics Ltd (ALL), and SeaLord Containers Limited (SLCL), a subsidiary of ALL), had all agreed to a series of measures proposed by the state environment department during a meeting in February, where an action plan was proposed.
Nitrogen blanketing -- a method of applying nitrogen gas to the vapour space or top layer of a container carrying chemicals to control its composition and reduce oxygen access to curb emission -- bottom filling of trucks to ensure liquid does not spill out, constructing a parking area to avoid congestion of vehicles, developing a green belt, and granting permission to park vehicles on the Eastern Freeway during non-peak hours for smoother vehicular movement and curbing spillage were some of the measures that the action plan had proposed.
On Thursday, the state environment department met four agencies -- the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), Mumbai Police and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) authorities -- to review the pollution control targets.
“As per the updates received, nitrogen blanketing has been completed by three of the four firms,” said Thackeray.
“Most companies have adhered to bottom filling of trucks, except for a few truck companies. I have asked the MPCB authorities to review it within a month. A parking area will be provided by MMRDA and the process is near completion. The BMC will undertake a green belt development programme in this zone, and traffic permissions have been granted to reduce congestion of vehicular traffic,” he added.
The minister added that 90% of the pollution norms were being followed, and compliance for the rest is expected soon. “However, we need to understand why the area is unfit for human habitation,” said Thackeray.
In February, the Maharashtra Housing and Area Development Authority (Mhada) had transferred 300 of its available flats at Gorai to rehabilitate residents from Mahul following an order from the state government. “So far, 202 flats have been handed over to residents from Mahul, who have shifted to Gorai,” said Bilal Khan, a social activist.
In August, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had termed the Mahul-Chembur area as Mumbai’s “gas chamber” while directing the four industrial firms to pay Rs 286.2 crore as environmental compensation due to air pollution damages.
However, the companies have challenged the order and moved the Supreme Court (SC).
As per NGT’s order, a 10-member joint committee was constituted in September to prepare a separate action plan for pollution reduction over the next five years and address the health hazards of the residents of Mahulgaon, Ambapada and its surrounding areas due to severe air pollution, MPCB authorities said.
The committee members met for the first time on Wednesday. “The basic framework for the action plan and how it needs to be implemented was discussed during the meeting and the final plan will be drafted soon,” said PK Mirashe, assistant secretary (technical), MPCB.
The committee is headed by Justice VM Kanade, a former judge of the Bombay high court (HC).
The other members of the panel comprise two officials from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), a representative from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), an MPCB member as the nodal agency, Maharashtra health secretary, Mumbai district collector, and representatives from the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Bombay and King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital in Parel.
Residents of Ambapada and Mahul Koliwada have complained to the NGT about a foul stench emanating in the area around midnight daily and the source of the noxious substance is reportedly originating at an industrial area, which is located 10 minutes away from these villages.
“The stench comes from the SeaLord industrial area. We have filed several complaints with the MPCB and CPCB authorities, but they have only responded through emails. They are yet to make a site visit,” said Devram Mahulkar, one of the applicants before the NGT.
“We have also requested Thackeray to meet the residents of Mahul and take cognisance of the grievances that we have been raising in court,” he added.