Jairam Ramesh, Minister of State for Environment and Forests, on Thursday recommended a moratorium on new units at the 43 highly polluted industrial areas in the country.
“We need to take some tough decisions and we should put on hold new approvals in these areas until the situation is brought under control,” he said after releasing a Comprehensive Environmental Assessment of Industrial Clusters.
Brought out by the Central Pollution Control Board, the assessment has identified 88 industrial pollution hotspots across the country. Of these 10 have been rated as most critically or alarmingly polluted clusters (Ankleshwar, Vapi, Ghaziabad, Chandrapur, Korba, Bhiwadi, Angul Talcher, Vellore, Singhrauli and Ludhiana) and 33 critically polluted clusters, 32 are seriously polluted while the remaining are in the warning zone.
Mr. Ramesh said one also needs to look at industrial pollution from the public health perspective and the Ministry has already got in touch with the Public Health Foundation of India to examine the health impacts of pollution on people. He said pollution affected the water supply and interfered in the food chain as well, thereby adversely impacting public health.
Assuring the States that the Centre was willing to extend help – financial and organisation – for pollution control, Mr. Ramesh said once the pollution levels are brought down we can allow newer units to start. The Minister said that he would approach the Finance Minister so that a separate fund is announced in the next budget for the purpose. In this context, he said the States should come up with action plans to bring the situation back to the normal while citing the example of Gujarat that had started taking remedial measures in Vapi and Ankleshwar.
Admitting that there would be vehement opposition from the States over the list, Mr. Ramesh said this was no political or emotional issue but based purely on the scientific data available and compiled on the basis of internationally accepted methodology.
The report has also come up with a Comprehensive Environment Pollution Index (CEPI) that would be the benchmark for grading industrial pollution. The CEPI is a rational number to characterise the environmental quality at a given location and increasing value of CEPI indicates severe adverse effects on environment and is also an indication of large percentage of population experiencing health hazards. It is intended to act as an early warning tool which can help in categorising the industrial clusters and areas in terms of priority of needing attention.