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Updated: October 26, 2012 16:38 IST

Civic Sense: Time to revamp pollution control board

Deepa H. Ramakrishnan
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Garbage being burnt near the mouth of the Cooum River near Napier Bridge. Photo: N. Sridharan
The Hindu
Garbage being burnt near the mouth of the Cooum River near Napier Bridge. Photo: N. Sridharan

People associated with TNPCB say it is bogged down by too much work

For over four years I have been a regular visitor to the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board on Anna Salai for news. At a personal level, I have also been curious about finding a solution to Chennai's noise and ambient air pollution issues. But all that the TNPCB has been able to offer me is a table on the levels of air, water and noise pollution on a regular basis.

I have often asked them if they were aware of the blaring noise of horns or the increase in pollution levels caused by the city's slow-moving traffic. The responses varied from recalling how a few former bureaucrats had performed well in removing air horns to being under-staffed and therefore, overworked. While the city is grappling with increasing pollution levels, the monitoring agency is struggling to cope with a whole range of challenges.

With just 670 employees, the board manages over 23,000 files of industries in various categories and also monitors urban pollution levels. In the Cuddalore SIPCOT industrial estate, there are 31 toxic chemical industries and there are just two people there. These people are in-charge of the entire district — what will they take care of, ask activists.

At times, applications for consent to set up and operate industrial units await clearance for months together. Until two years ago there were nearly 2,000 industries around Chennai that operated without consent from the TNPCB.

People who have been associated with the TNPCB for long say that the Board is not as effective as it used to be as it is bogged down by too much work. To make the system perform at optimum levels, there is a need for recruitment of people in the scientific cadre with a background in environment. Roles of officials are not clearly defined and this leads to staff doing what they can to monitor pollution levels, without much coordination. TNPCB needs to ensure accountability, if it is really serious about addressing the issue of increasing pollution levels in the city.

Monitoring of air, water and noise pollution must be more effective and this might require more monitoring stations across the city. Achieving this should not be difficult, considering that funds are not a constraint. Clear long- and short-term goals must be set for every city and industrial region.

This would help officials understand what they are looking at and take initiatives. TNPCB's laboratories need to be upgraded and must go in for National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories and ISO 14000 accreditation and keep improving their performance.

Experts have also called for the setting up of an environment protection authority like in the United States. Such an agency would provide direction to the board. Its purpose would be to protect residents from risks to their health and the environment where they live in, learn and work.

The scope of the Board should be expanded to more areas including indoor air pollution, ocean pollution, pesticides and drinking water. It's high time the government considered revamping TNPCB.


Deepa H. RamakrishnanJune 28, 2012

At WorkSeptember 24, 2010

What’s with the noise?August 27, 2012

More In: Chennai | Columns

Well said, Its really a high time that these agencies should be revamped
and that is not very difficult, considering the scenario, it can be done
by allotting a certain percentage of turnover from the industries
towards fees for the monitoring agency. But at present it is happening
the same only difference is that the money is getting end up in the
pockets of corrupt officials instead of the agency.
The few poor straight forward officials and the larger society is at the
receiving end !!!!

from:  Prakash
Posted on: Apr 18, 2012 at 09:23 IST

Pollution Control Board in India, must be renamed as Pollution Board. They seem incapable of controlling pollution of any kind. They have no concept of clean environment. If they are serious, they should think innovatively and Out-of-the-box. People have no faith in PCBs. They think PCBs take bribe and allow the pollutants to run amok.

from:  Shaun Warren
Posted on: Apr 18, 2012 at 09:20 IST

Whatever revamp is envisaged for TNPCB, unless there is an attitudinal change
amongst the common man in ensuring a zero-pollution environ, the solution is at
a distance. Cause of action is more important than the remedy. Mindset of the
people must change drastically not to pollute the atmosphere. It should come
right from the youngsters down to the senior citizens. Is is not our bounden
duty to ensure litter free house/streets/road/city? Can'nt we ensure minimum
standards of cleanliness in our vicinity? Are our youthful drivers of growth
thinking twice before they blare up their horns while they are on wheels,
providing minimum comfort to the old and aged? If every citizen is ensuring
minimum standard of a clean environ, then the need for revamp of the
monitoring authority like the defunct TNPCB, may not arise at all. Will our
honourable citizens ensure a clean and clear environ?

from:  K Venkatesan
Posted on: Apr 18, 2012 at 07:08 IST

Goverment alone cannot do this. Personal responsibility also should be taken into account.I have been visiting Chennai almost every year. Last February I found it unbearable. We have to do something to make life possible.

from:  Joe
Posted on: Apr 18, 2012 at 01:49 IST
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