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States asked to bear 60 per cent cost
The Central Pollution Control Board is in talks with pollution control departments of eight states to begin remediation work at 12 sites which have been contaminated by highly toxic waste waste. The recently launched National Clean Energy Fund (NCEF) has approved Rs 60 crore for preparing detailed project reports for the sites. Activists say the exercise might turn out to be a theoretical one.
In August, the central board (CPCB) had proposed that 70 per cent of the project, costing Rs 805 crore, be borne by NCEF. But after discussions, it was decided NCEF would pay 40 per cent and the grant was cleared in principle if the state governments provide 60 per cent of the total cost; NCEF would provide the initial Rs 5 crores per site for the preparing detailed project reports.
On November 30, 2011, CPCB officials called a meeting with state representatives to discuss how they can fund the works. Vinod Babu, head of the hazardous waste division of CPCB says, public-private partnerships (PPPs) are the most preferred mode. Another method being explored is getting the polluter to clean the site based on the principle of 'polluter pays'.
The project currently is in the planning stage, says Aniruddhe Mukerjee, director with the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF). He is also in charge of the ongoing world bank project—capacity building for industrial pollution management—in Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal. The proposal for remediation of the selected dump sites under NCEF is broadly based on the world bank project.
States have committed themselves to preparing detailed project reports for six of the eight sites in collaboration with expert parties (see box). “These would be industry experts and consultants like Environmental Resource Management of Germany. They will suggest possible technology to be used and cost of the clean up,” says Babu of CPCB. He further explains that the selected company would have to provide three options of technology to be used along with cost of each, of which the state would pick one.
|Sites selected for remediation|
|State||Site||Nature of contaminant||Preliminary Details|
|Gujarat||Vadodara||Chromium||Approximately 77,000 tonnes of chromium residue is dumped in industrial plot. Groundwater is contaminated.|
|Kerala||Eloor, Cochin||Heavy metals and Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)||24.5 hectares of soil and water bodies contaminated with pesticides and heavy metals in four locations|
|Madhya Pradesh||Ratlam||Gypsum, iron salts and Naphthalene||Severe contamination of groundwater with PAH and iron salts imparting red-colour|
|Orissa||Ganjam||Mercury||About 56,000 MT of sludge containing mercury dumped along and near the banks of Rishikulya|
|Orissa||Talcher||Chromium||60,000 tonnes of chromium leach residue is dumped in closed industry premises. Contamination of soil and surface water bodies during rains.|
|Orissa||Sundergarh||Chromium||Chromium leach residue dumps at 4 locations|
|Rajasthan||Bichhadi||Inorganic salts, organics||Contamination of soil and groundwater|
|Tamil Nadu||Ranipet||Chromium||Hexavalent Cr leaching from 7.41 acre dump site with 2.2 lakh MT of leach residue. Soil, ground wand surface water contamination|
|Uttar Pradesh||Rakhi-mandi, Kanpur||Chromium||Approximately 10,000 tonnes of residue dump in approximately 5 to 6 acres. People affected, groundwater contaminated.|
|Uttar Pradesh||Lucknow||HCH (Hexa-chloro cyclo-hexane)||Approximately 36,432 tonnes of pesticides waste dumped in closed industry premises|
|Uttar Pradesh||Rania, Kanpur Dehat||Chromium||Two square kilometres land area is contaminated with open dump of approximately 45,000 tonnes of waste|
|West Bengal||Nibra Village, Howrah||Chromium||About 4,440 tonnes of residue dumped, human settlement exists above the dump, contamination of groundwater.|
In Rajasthan and Gujarat, CPCB is facing technical difficulties as the site in Rajasthan is under litigation and the site in Gujarat is on private land. Uttar Pradesh, where the CPCB has identified three sites, is scheduled to give its commitment next Monday regarding the possibility of implementing the project.
How will the sites be used post clean up?
The sites have been selected based on the quantum of waste dumped, extent of ground or surface water and soil contamination, nature of pollutants and ecological and health impacts, says CPCB. The 12 selected areas, CPCB says, include 23 priority sites. But Ravi Agarwal of Toxics Link, a Delhi based non-profit, says, “A majority of the sites selected are legacy sites and not active, with very vague estimations of the extent of contamination. Vapi for example is an active site and in Ratlam as Down To Earth had reported earlier in the year, the waste seems to have disappeared.”
Agarwal questioned the basis of the selection and says the biggest concerns regarding the project are: use of the sites after the clean up; the extent of the clean up; and how it will be funded. “It is unclear why these 23 sites have been picked up or to what extent they will be cleaned. So how will anyone ever know whether they have been cleaned or not?” he asks. Agarwal explains that the government needs to set standards for the clean up, which in turn would decide the technology to be used and the money spent. “Unless the selection, standards and purpose of clean up are publicly declared, we cannot be sure that the whole exercise will not become futile like the Ganga Action Plan,” he says. Public money ought not to be used for the clean up operations and polluters should be made to pay, he adds.