Cement-mixing plant near Mumbai zoo is violating pollution laws: Activists | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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Cement-mixing plant near Mumbai zoo is violating pollution laws: Activists

Watchdog Foundation files complaint with state pollution control board; plant operator says he has permission

mumbai Updated: Mar 06, 2018 08:40 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Citizens’ groups have complained about a ready mix concrete (RMC) plant located less than 50m from
Citizens’ groups have complained about a ready mix concrete (RMC) plant located less than 50m from(HT)

Citizens’ groups have complained about a ready mix concrete (RMC) plant located less than 50m from Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and Zoo in Byculla, saying that the unit is violating air pollution control norms. The RMC plant operator said they had permissions to operate the unit.

Watchdog Foundation, a city-based not-for-profit group filed a complaint with the state pollution control board on Sunday attaching satellite images of the RMC plant and its distance from the zoo. “This cement-mixing activity is slow-poisoning the animals, birds, and reptiles in Byculla, zoo which are inhaling this dust-laden polluted air. The dust is further settling onto the water bodies located within the park,” said Godfrey Pimenta, trustee, Watchdog Foundation. “Authorities like the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) are giving permission without any environmental concern. Being a botanical garden, dust pollution is a serious matter of concern for the rare tree species at the zoo.”

An RMC plant is a factory or batching unit where cement mix is made in large quantities, mostly for construction. Without safety norms in place, the plants can cause air and noise pollution. According to MPCB guidelines, RMC plants must create a 100m buffer zone from residential areas and arterial roads. The guidelines also say that in case of sensitive areas the said buffer zone has to be of minimum 200m.

Established in 1861, Veermata Jijabai Bhosale Udyan and Zoo is one of the oldest zoos in India and is spread across 53 acres. It is one of the city’s largest open green spaces and Mumbai’s only heritage botanical garden. The zoo is home to 388 animal, bird and reptile species, according to the Central Zoo Authority’s inventory.

Sanjay Tripathi, the zoo’s director, said dust pollution was in fact a matter of concern. “If dust pollution is a cause of concern for humans, it is a much bigger threat for animals and birds. It is MPCB’s responsibility to check how surrounding areas are affected by particulate pollution. They need to issue guidelines to this plant so that apart from the zoo, even nearby residents are not affected,” he said.

Officials from MPCB said they had taken cognisance of the complaint. “The RMC plant was allowed to function at the site only because they already had no-objection certificates from the BMC and the zoo. However, since there is a detailed complaint, we will be investigating whether the operators are violating Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981,” said MR Lad, regional officer, MPCB.

The RMC plant operators said they had all permissions in place. “This plant has been functioning for the past two months to provide cement for the construction of a residential complex in the area. We have been sprinkling water at the entrance and within the plant premises daily, to prevent dust pollution. Also, all MPCB guidelines are being followed by us, and the board can rectify the same on visiting the site,” said an official from the RMC plant, which is being run by a private company.

Why should you care?

An RMC plant is a factory or batching plant where cement mix is made in large quantities. From here, the mix is delivered to construction sites in trucks with mixers that keep rotating to prevent it from getting dry. An RMC plant can produce 80 to 100 metric cubes of concrete a day

A 2010-11 study by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) on sources of pollution in Mumbai found construction activities alone were responsible for a whopping 8% of the city’s pollution

Another study by the Environmental Policy and Research India (EPRI) found that ready mix concrete (RMC) plants emit a toxic cocktail of nearly 40 carcinogenic (cancer causing) substances, and are major sources of PM2.5 that lodges deep in the lungs and oxides of nitrogen (NOx), a key ingredient in the formation of ground level ozone and urban smog. The concentration of PM2.5 and PM10 values were found to be between 500 – 600 microgrammes per cubic metre (ug/m3) as against 60ug/m3 for PM2.5 and 100ug/m3 for PM10 during the study

An RMC plant near your home? Watch out for these:

· Has a dust separator and collector system

· Has a mechanism to sprinkle water across the plant so dust particles settle

· Water is sprinkled after trucks leave the plant

· A compound wall is built around the machine

· Trees are planted around the machine

· A system to collect and dispose waste

· The plant is at least 100m from residential areas and arterial roads

(Source: Maharashtra Pollution Control Board)