Pollution contents were 300 to 1,000 per cent more than the norms

The Gujarat Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, a voluntary organisation working for environmental protection, has come out with startling facts on how the badly treated industrial effluents are being dumped in the major rivers in the State and in the sea.

The rivers include the Narmada, Mahisagar, Sabamarti and Damanganga and the sea outlet is in the Gulf of Cambay.

Samiti convener Rohit Prajapati said all the shocking figures about the pollution contents in the sewage disposal had been obtained from the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) and the Central Pollution Control Board through the Right to Information Act.

He said that in most cases it was found that the pollution contents were about 300 per cent to over 1,000 per cent more than the norms set by the GPCB and even the effluent treatment plants set up by the State or the Central governments were malfunctioning dumping huge quantities of pollutants in the rivers or the sea as well as afflicting the local population.

He pointed out that in the wake of the Bhopal gas disaster when many affected people and voluntary organisations approached the court of law, the government woke up to the situation and at the intervention of the courts, tried to enforce measures for the treatment of effluents before discharging them in the public places.

But under pressure from the industries, the “polluter pays” theory was given the go-by and in most of the cases the industrial units discharging pollutants were made to pay only 20 per cent of the cost with the remaining 80 per cent coming from the general tax payers, the State and Central government funds and the financial institutions.

The industrial houses did not even bother to maintain the treatment plants or expand its capacity when the load increased. The GPCB kept on issuing notices, but no one ever bothered about violation of its norms and the Board remained a silent spectator doing nothing to make the industrial houses bend.

A legal notice issued by the GPCB to a waste and effluent management company at Sarigam in Bulsar district show the helplessness of the government-controlled body.

The notice, issued on December 4 last, pointed out that the concentrations such as the Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD), Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), Chloride, Ammoniacal Nitrogen, Phenolic Compound, Sulphides, Zinc and other pollutants in the effluents dumped in Tadgam village were much higher than the prescribed norms of the Board.

And yet neither any remedial measure had so far been taken by the company nor did the board take any follow-up action.

The GPCB sources admitted that the wastes discharged in the Damanganga from the Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CEPT) of the industrial houses in Vapi contained 347 per cent more COD, 432 per cent more TDS and 196 per cent more Ammoniacal Nitrogen, a serious health hazard, compared to the GPCB prescribed norms.

The conditions were worse in Ankleshwar which carry into the Gulf of Cambay 248 per cent more COD and 1,328 per cent more Ammoniacal Nitrogen.

The effluent channel project of Vadodara dumping waste water into the estuary of the Mahisagar was found to be carrying 300 to 700 per cent more than the prescribed norms of COD, BOD, Ammoniacal Nitrogen, TDS, Cyanide, phenols and other hazardous pollutants.

The pollution contents in the effluents dumped in the Sabarmati from the industrial estates in Vatva, Odhav and Naroda around Ahmedabad city were found to be alarmingly high, 2,926 per cent more of COD, 2,520 per cent more of Ammoniacal Nitrogen and 780 per cent more of TDS.

The much-touted Rs.131-crore Final Effluent Treatment Plant (FETP) — constructed with the State and the Central governments and the State-owned Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation contributing over Rs.109 crore and the defaulting industries a mere Rs.21 crore, and inaugurated by Chief Minister Narendra Modi in January 2007 for treatment of water wastes of Ankleshwar, Panoli and Jhagadia chemical industrial estates — was found to be equally in a pathetic condition.