Nine more clusters across the country allowed to have new projects

Three years and nine months after it imposed a moratorium on new projects, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has lifted the ban in Manali, a major petroleum and petrochemical hub near Chennai, and nine more clusters elsewhere in the country.

While this is bound to cheer units, particularly those considering expansion such as standalone refinery Chennai Petroleum Corporation Ltd in Manali, the news is not heartening for seven remaining critically polluted areas, including Vellore in the State.

Describing the relaxation as a psychological boost for companies to draw up their expansion or modernisation projects, Manali Industries Association Secretary V. Srinivasan said 2-3 firms had drawn up expansion plans recently, entailing Rs.700 crore to Rs.1,000 crore investment.

Mr. Srinivasan, who is also General Manager - Corporate Planning of CPCL, said as regards the plans of the refinery to expand the moratorium would no longer be a limiting factor. Manali would also be back in reckoning for multi-locational companies that had a base there and were planning expansion.

The Ministry, in its September 17 order, said the moratorium was imposed on January 13, 2010 up to August 31 of the same year on consideration of projects for environmental clearance in 43 critically polluted areas (CPA)/ industrial clusters identified by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

During the moratorium period, which was subsequently extended, time-bound action plans were to be prepared by the respective State Pollution Control Boards for improving the environmental quality in these industrial clusters. The action plans had to be finalised by the CPCB.

Based on the CPCB inputs about the action taken, the Ministry, between October 2010 and July 2011, lifted the moratorium in 26 industrial clusters, including Coimbatore and Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu, Mangalore in Karnataka and Greater Kochi in Kerala.

Continuance or withdrawal of the ban depended on the measures taken in the clusters towards improving the Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI), which pertained to the level of effluents, air quality and solid waste.

The Ministry said based on the monitoring during February-April 2013, the CPCB informed the CEPI score in 10 of the 17 areas, where the moratorium was in force, showed a decreasing trend compared to the findings in 2011. Besides Manali, the other industrial areas were Ahmedabad in Gujarat, Korba in Chhattisgarh, Asansol, Haldia and Howrah in West Bengal, Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, Bhiwadi in Rajasthan, Dhanbad in Jharkhand and Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh.

The list of seven locations where the CEPI score “is either above 80 or is above 70 and showing either increasing trend or no change as compared to the values observed in 2011” are Ankleshwar and Chandrapur in Maharashtra, Pali and Jodhpur in Rajasthan, Vatva in Gujarat, Najafgarh Drain Basin in Delhi and Vellore.

The decision to allow new projects to be taken up for environmental clearance comes with certain conditions pertaining to the implementation of action in the CPAs by the State Pollution Control Board, role of the CPCB and third party review.