Making CETPs work
If cetps are the answer, how do we make them work? The choice of technology, however important, is not the only challenge ahead. The key is to build a much stronger framework for common waste governance.
In Delhi, for instance, a legal framework exists. But it is so convoluted that nobody is clear about specific roles and responsibilities in the management of the waste. For instance, the law gives the cetp users societies responsibility for "setting up and operating a cetp " in their estate. But it does not give them the powers to set the dues or even to recover unpaid dues from the individual users. The society is toothless. It has to appeal to "authority", a government agency like the industrial development corporation or the pollution control board, to take action against defaulters. This will never work.
On the other hand, if the cetp societies are given powers to take punitive action against defaulters and to ensure effective functioning, the monitoring agency has to make sure that these plants do not become ways and means of circumventing pollution laws. It is, therefore, necessary to do the following:
Firstly, set up the institutional framework -- based on the best practice today -- giving responsibilities to the cetp societies to ensure that the plants work effectively. It is their responsibility to bring about cooperation and compliance. But for this, they should also have the right to set the terms and the rules for engagement. Only in the case of extreme punitive action, if at all, a government agency should be involved.
Secondly, we need governance mechanisms that strengthen decentralised decision-making. It needs strong internal governance -- effective executive boards, regular general body meetings. But most of all, it needs transparency in dealings. So, if any action has to be taken, the cetp society must be asked to publish the list of defaulters or publish the list of companies reducing their effluents.
Thirdly, and most importantly, it needs a stronger and much more effective role of the monitoring agencies. As yet, this is pathetic. All the government agencies would like to do is run the plants. This is not their business. Their business is to ensure that these plants are effective, that there is no diversion channel which dumps the waste and that the effluent leaving the cetp, at all times, is within limits. If it is not, it needs clear and concerted action. An action plan for improvements. Strong and determined monitoring to ensure compliance.
For this, we must insist that pollution boards and other government agencies publish their monitoring reports, freely and openly. Perhaps in a website or a local newspaper. Each plant is monitored regularly. The details published. This will give local groups a chance to validate the information. To monitor the monitors.
In fact, ideally the cetps should be rated across the country -- a green rating to establish the innovators, cost-savers and environment-savers. After all this is more about building human societies than about building simple plants.
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