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Friday, Dec 06, 2019

Delhi surrounded by critically polluted industrial clusters, finds CPCB study

The Najafgarh drain basin in Delhi, is the second most polluted cluster in India, with air and water in the “critical” category and soil in “severe” category when it comes to toxic content, according to unpublished CPCB data accessed by Hindustan Times.

delhi Updated: Nov 22, 2019 04:54 IST
Jayashree Nandi
Jayashree Nandi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
CPCB has compiled and submitted a list of critically polluted industrial clusters that were monitored in 2018 to the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which referred to the list in an order dated July 10, 2019.
CPCB has compiled and submitted a list of critically polluted industrial clusters that were monitored in 2018 to the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which referred to the list in an order dated July 10, 2019.(HT File Photo)
         

Assessments by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) suggest the national capital is home to and surrounded by critically polluted industrial clusters that do not meet air, water or soil pollution parameters, contributing to the city’s grimy air and poor water quality.

The Najafgarh drain basin in Delhi, which includes the Anand Parbat, Naraina, Okhla and Wazirpur industrial areas, is the second most polluted cluster in India, with air and water in the “critical” category and soil in “severe” category when it comes to toxic content, according to unpublished CPCB data accessed by Hindustan Times.

CPCB has compiled and submitted a list of critically polluted industrial clusters that were monitored in 2018 to the National Green Tribunal (NGT), which referred to the list in an order dated July 10, 2019.

Other critically polluted towns in Delhi’s neighbourhood are Mathura, Kanpur, Moradabad, Varanasi and Bulandshahr, Agra, Firozabad and Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh, Gurgaon in Haryana and Bhiwad in Rajasthan Despite deadly air pollution levels in the National Capital Region centred on Delhi, clean-up action couldn’t be initiated on these clusters because the environment ministry is still considering the CPCB findings.

“The environment ministry is still considering this assessment so we haven’t published {the data} yet. But the findings can be viewed by anyone who is interested, in the NGT order,” said a CPCB official, who declined to be named.

Delhi is confronting the annual phenomenon of farm fires resulting from stubble burning in neighbouring states such a Punjab and Haryana that aggravate its toxic air quality and shroud the city in thick smog. And a survey released by the central government on Saturday revealed that Mumbai was the only city whose tap water met the piped drinking water quality standards set by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) while Delhi’s was “undrinkable”.

The assessment of industrial clusters is based on CPCB’s comprehensive environmental pollution index (CEPI), a framework for identifying critically and severely polluted industrial clusters in the country. Areas with CEPI scores above 70 are considered “critically polluted” while those with scores in the 60-70 range are considered “severely polluted”

In 2016, the ministry revised the process for calculate CEPI and dropped two important parameters in making CEPI assessment. The two parameters that were dropped from the process are impact of pollution on health and environmental degradation. Only data from hospital admissions will be evaluated. The excuse was that these two are subjective issues that cannot be quantified.

The revised guidelines say that a moratorium on the grant of environmental clearance to industries in these areas will only be imposed after a notice of one year from the announcement of the CEPI assessment.

“While action plans may certainly be prepared, the polluting activity, which is a criminal offence, cannot be allowed to be continued. The essence of rule of law is that no activity which is against the law is allowed to continue and the person violating the law is punished according to law. Thus merely requiring improvement does not obviate the need for punishing the law violators or polluters; stopping polluting activity and recovering compensation for the damage already caused so as to recover the cost of restoration is the mandate of law,” NGT said in its July 10 order adding that CPCB should come back to the green court on how it had acted against these industrial clusters by November. NGT had taken suo-moto notice of a news story on industrial pollution and made these orders to Central Pollution Control Board and Environment ministry after CPCB submitted the CEPI ranking.

In its final report on the compliance with NGT’s orders of July 10 submitted by CPCB on November 1, CPCB said: “Since CEPI report including CEPI score, industrial areas covered…is under consideration of MoEFCC {ministry of environment ,forest and climate change} CPCB has requested MoEFCC vide letter dated 9.9.2019 seeking approval to share information with state pollution control board (SPCBs).”

It also said the environment ministry had asked CPCB to hold a consultation with various stakeholders on a mechanism for environmental management of critically polluted areas.

Apart from the CEPI score, very little is known about the air quality of these critically polluted areas because of the lack of real time air quality monitoring. Bulandshahr, Moradabad, Kanpur and, Varanasi for example have one monitoring station each. Ghaziabad, which borders Delhi, has only one.

“This ranking shows that several critically polluted areas with high air pollution score are within the air shed of Delhi-NCR and that of larger Indo Gangetic plain. This demands regional air quality management and special measures to eliminate dirty industrial fuels, push best available technology and control fugitive emissions in these hotspot areas. Establish responsibility of upwind- downwind polluters to clean up the airshed,” said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director of the Centre for Science and Environment.

The regulatory approach to pollution control requires a revisit, said Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher at the Centre for Policy Research.

“The limitations of CEPI are symptomatic of the our approach to pollution control and abatement. The CEPI score can give a number or gravity to the lived experience of pollution. Notwithstanding the fact that the methodology and access to the CEPI process is alien to most citizens; there is no serious evaluation by the government to assess the efficacy of this system to ensure that remedial measures are undertaken. Without that, CEPI or online monitoring system remains only on paper awaiting political action,” said Kanchi Kohli, legal researcher, Centre for Policy Research.

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