Minister of State for Environment and Forests Jairam Ramesh on Thursday recommended a moratorium on new units at 43 highly polluted industrial areas in the country. “We need to take some tough decisions and 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. Of these, 10 are rated as most critically or alarmingly polluted clusters (Ankleshwar, Vapi, Ghaziabad, Chandrapur, Korba, Bhiwadi, Angul Talcher, Vellore, Singrauli and Ludhiana), 33 as critically polluted clusters, 32 as seriously polluted. The remaining are in the warning zone.

Health impact

Mr. Ramesh said one also needed to look at industrial pollution from the public health perspective and the Ministry was in touch with the Public Health Foundation of India to examine the health impact of pollution on people. Pollution affected 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 were brought down, newer units could be allowed. He would approach the Finance Minister so that a separate fund was announced in the next budget for the purpose.

The States should come up with action plans to bring the situation back to normal. He cited 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. It was based purely on scientific data and compiled on the basis of internationally accepted methodology.

Benchmark

The report has 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 the CEPI indicates severe adverse effects on environment. It is also an indication of large percentage of population experiencing health hazards. It is intended to act as an early warning tool that could help in categorising the industrial clusters and areas in terms of priority of needing attention.