Tamil Nadu

CPCB Index reveals no reduction pollution levels at SIPCOT in Cuddalore

A view of the SIPCOT Industrial Estate in Cuddalore.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

In February 2011, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had lifted the ban on setting up new industries in Cuddalore SIPCOT industrial estate, a critically polluted industrial cluster, after the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) submitted an action report promising necessary steps to bring down the pollution level to 54.69%.

However, the latest report of the Comprehensive Pollution Control Index (CEPI) submitted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) shows that no tangible measure have been taken to bring down pollution levels so far.

The CEPI index has thrown up some disturbing facts about the pollution levels especially water quality in the Cuddalore SIPCOT. In the report, Cuddalore has scored 62.56 out of 100.

In 2009, the first assessment conducted by CPCB, the Cuddalore industrial cluster had scored 77.45. Though the CEPI score dropped to 54.69 in 2011, it again went up to 70.12 in 2013 despite assurance given by the TNPCB to bring down the score. In 2018, the score was 62.56. According to guidelines for highly polluted areas, a score of more than 60 in CEPI shows a critical level of pollution.

While there has been a slight improvement in the pollution levels of air and land over the years, there has been no improvement in the water quality in Cuddalore SIPCOT. While air and land pollution had dropped to 25 and 41.25% respectively in 2018 as against 45.50 and 60.50 respectively in 2013, pollution levels in water continues to be high. Cuddalore has scored 58.25 out of 100 in 2018. The water pollution level in 2013 was 53.50 in 2013 and 50.00 in 2011.

A joint inspection report of the TNPCB and CPCB submitted before the NGT recently showed that out of 14 units that have installed their own Zero Liquid Discharge (ZLD) systems, five units were not in operation as their ZLD systems could not be tested. In the remaining 9 units, the committee observed that the ZLD system – Multi Effect Evaporator (MEE) – was poor or very poor. The committee also found iron, copper, nickel and zine in the raw effluent and MEE concentrate.

According to the report, high concentration of copper (99.89 mg/L) and Nickel (15.13 mg/L) were found in one unit and has called for close monitoring of the unit. Similarly, one industry was found discharging treated effluent having high concentration of copper (6.65 mg/L as against 3.0 mg/L).

“While the committee observed that all traces of heavy metals were within the prescribed limits of each individual unit, the committee did not conduct any cumulative assessment of heavy metals released by the entire cluster. The report also clearly indicates that the water environment with respect to CEPI score has not shown any improvement in the region thus confirming water contamination in the cluster.

Industries in SIPCOT have been contaminating the environment since late 1990s. The case before the NGT is of ground water contamination in the villages around SIPCOT units. This committee’s report is ‘incomplete’ as it has restricted its inspection to the units currently in operation in SIPCOT but has done any analysis or test of the groundwater quality in and around the villages of SIPCOT,” says Shwetha Narayanan, an environmentalist.

Even according to the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the NGT order, the committee was to ascertain the source of heavy metals in the water around SIPCOT and ascertain compensation. The committee has failed to carry out these duties as instructed by NGT, Ms. Narayanan added.

According to T. Arul Selvam of SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitors (SACEM), the discharge of heavy metals in the effluents released by the industries had already affected ground water quality in the region. Residents who consume contaminated water have been exposed to various health hazards. Cuddalore is a water stressed area and continuous release of untreated effluents would cause irreparable damage to ecology.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2020 10:40:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/cpcb-index-reveals-no-reduction-pollution-levels-at-sipcot-in-cuddalore/article30285010.ece

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