The Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) has managed to speed up its work in spite of not having recruited additional staff in the past two years. It has been using a software to make its functioning “transparent and accountable”, and to speedily complete daily tasks. The software called Xtended Green Node (XGN) has been developed by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) and has been in use since June 2008. The software connects the regional and head offices of GPCB with around 17,000 Industries spread across Gujarat, hospitals (private and government), and waste treatment facilities.
Before the advent of XGN, GPCB personnel had to record everything manually in files, which made tracking of applications difficult. For instance, it was not easy for officials to keep track of when the consent of a particular industry would expire, when the last inspection was conducted, for how long an industrial unit hasn’t paid water cess or how many times it has violated the statutory norms.
The inspections carried out by GPCB officials required a lot of paper work and all the information and data post-inspection had to be documented in files. Extracting one piece of information would require going through stacks of files. XGN has changed how data and information are managed in GPCB.
All the information of a particular industry—from raw material to water sourcing and consumption, wastewater generation, treatment and disposal, electricity consumption, inspection reports, monitoring results, water cess fees and e-files—are now available at the click of mouse.
XGN also enables GPCB officers to respond to Right To Information queries rapidly since all information can be accessed quickly.
|Features of XGN
GPCB's XGN model has fifteen in-built modules:
1) Industry profile
2) Online application module
3) Application scrutiny section
4) E-file movement
6) Sample analysis
8) GPCB/CPCB projects
9) Hazardous waste
10) Bio-medical waste
12) Public grievance
13) Municipal solid waste
14) Water Cess
15) General file movement
How it works?
For a hassle free operation of the software, GPCB has assigned a unique id and password to each industry. The industry is only allowed to access the XGN portal using their id and password. What an industry accesses XGN for the first time, it has to feed all relevant information—production details, raw material consumption, water sourcing and consumption, wastewater generation, treatment and its final disposal, hazardous waste generation and disposal, electricity consumption, details of air pollution and water pollution control equipments—and load all the relevant files. After submitting the information, an industry can apply for consent, such as consent to operate or consent to establish.
The moment a company submits an application, an SMS alert goes to the regional officer concerned. The official can review the files and if he or she finds anything amiss, a query is sent immediately. The officers have to clear applications in a time-bound manner. A GPCB officer is given 120 days to clear or reject a consent application. In this way, the pollution control board and industry can communicate online. Once the application for consent is complete and all the queries are answered, consent is granted and an SMS is sent to the operator.
The industries can also change or edit the information provided by them in the software. When they do so, a message goes to the official concerned who verifies the same during inspection. One of the unique features of XGN model is that it requires officers to respond to an application within a certain time limit. In case an official does not process a particular application, then he won't be able to work on his XGN account after a lapse of particular number of days.
The officials have to clear their backlog before they can proceed with the new ones. Their performance is continuously monitored by their seniors. Information flow now is immediate and brings greater transparency in communication between different industries and GPCB. Officials say their work efficiency has increased since the introduction of XGN (see table 'Performance of GPCB post XGN).
“During the past two years, there was no recruitment in GPCB, six new field offices were opened and there was a reduction of almost 12 per cent in manpower owing to retirements, still GPCB achieved dramatic improvement in terms of inspection and monitoring,” says an official GPCB.
Although the industry submits all its information online, it still has to submit one copy of application with all the necessary attachments in hard copy, as proof.
|Performance of GPCB post XGN
|Disposal of applications
|Number of inspections /year
|Number of samples/year
|Water cess, eligible industries
|Water cess defaulters
|Source: Gujarat Pollution Control Board
Madhya Pradesh also using XGN
The Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board adopted the XGN module in 2011 and named it Narmada-XGN. “XGN is completely free and has all the components which are covered by state pollution control board (SPCB) offices and can be replicated by other state boards. MPPCB has requested the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Union ministry of environment for replication of the software in all the SPCBs.
It is beyond imagination why other boards are spending millions of rupees when we already have a free, tested and fully developed software,” says H S Malviya, executive environmental engineer with MPPCB at Bhopal. He adds that MPPCB had suggested some changes to Gujarat NIC during customization and that the XGN model used presently is a much improved version.
“I suggest that CPCB should come out with a guideline and a time-bound implementation plan, asking all the SPCBs to adopt the XGN model developed by NIC Gujarat.” Malviya also informs that MPPCB plans to link XGN with GPS installed in the MPPCB vehicles. This will help them to trace whether an official had actually gone for site inspection/sampling or not.
In addition, if a person is visiting a certain area and the head office receives any complaint from that area, the senior official can ask the official in the field to visit other sites in that area.
A GPCB official says some industries are not comfortable with the idea of putting all their information in the public domain. They fear that certain people might manipulate the information given on XGN for wrong motives. However, to avoid such situations, discussions are taking place in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh on what information should be made public.
Despite reservations expressed by some stakeholders, the XGN model is a hit with majority of industries operating in Gujarat. GPCB officials say they receive a number of feedbacks from industry personnel praising the initiative. “XGN has brought about transparency and is a major step towards e-governance.
It has not only simplified and improved the functioning of both the board and the industry but is also reducing the carbon footprint by saving their travel to the GPCB office and doing away with paperwork,” says an official of Reliance Industries Limited.
Advantages and disadvantages
Apart from quick of applications and queries, XGN keeps officials on their toes. Officials have to clear applications within the stipulated time, and if they fail to do, a notice is sent automatically to the senior official concerned. If the officials don’t respond to applications, they won’t be able to continue working on their XGN account. The software thus helps in evaluating the performance of officials and ensure time-bound disposal of applications.
Quick data generation
XGN is available in two different modules, one for the head office and the other for regional offices. The operators at head offices can generate data for the entire state and regional offices can generate data for their respective region.
An official of GPCB informs that before XGN, most of the time of officials was spent in processing files manually. They spent very little time in inspection and monitoring industries, which is their main job. Post XGN, processing applications has become way easier. All the documents and files are available online, which can be reviewed any time and decisions taken at the earliest.
The public can use the software for lodging complaints if they find industries violating norms. They just need to click on the XGN link on the board’s website to submit complaints. The complainant has to provide his mobile number so that he receives intimation as soon as the board takes action on his complaint.
No access to public
A major drawback with the XGN model is that it is open only for a designated set of stakeholders identified by the SPCB. The general public has no access to it. Only the log-in page is open for public access, which only contains information on consent renewed or rejected every day. Access of XGN statistics can make it easy for the public access different kinds of information, like inspection reports of various industries and environment statements.