Tall Blunder

In 1996, industries in Delhi were hit by a series of court orders requiring them to take measures to reduce pollution 1,328 industries were closed down; 90,000 units were notified for relocation; and all factories in 28 industrial estates were asked to jointly set up common effluent treatment plants. The government and the judiciary were pleased with their stand. But a year-and-a-half on, it is appropriate to examine the issues raised by Delhi government's strategy for environmental improvement. What has really been achieved?

 
By Nandini Dasgupta
Last Updated: Sunday 07 June 2015

Tall Blunder

Locational distribution of ind (Credit: Anand Singh Rawat)THE primary concern noted in the Delhi Master Plan (DMP) 2001, revised and published in January, 1998, is that Delhi has been growing too fast. This rapid growth is attributed to the high rate of migration from surrounding states. The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) argues for a restrictive policy to reduce migration by shifting employment opportunities outside urban areas; restricting industrial growth to small scale, capital intensive, non-polluting units; and moving existing offices of public sector undertakings as far out of Delhi as possible. To this end, the Centre created the National Capital Region (NCR) which, along with the Delhi Metropolitan Areas (DMA), is expected to absorb the activities to be shifted.

To achieve these objectives, the government resorts to physical land-use planning. It demarcates industrial, commercial and residential zones and sets out the activities these zones may contain. In 1981, DIM estimated that there were 46,000 industrial units 77 per cent with fewer than 10 workers and 16 per cent with 10-20 workers. The Delhi Factory Owners Federation (DFOF) estimates that this figure had risen to 150,000 units by 1997. Some of this growth took place in specified industrial zones (conforming areas) and others in residential and commercial zones (non-conforming areas). The DMP expects to tackle this problem by relocating all such units to specified industrial areas outside Delhi.

Additionally, DMP-2001 calls for total ban on certain categories of units (see table: Future tense). All units expected to shift will be given three years time and shall be provided with an alternative plot and assistance. The land thus vacated would be used for community needs and also to create green space.

A special leave petition was filed by S C Mehta in the Supreme Court on this policy to close down and/or relocate industries within three years of the plan being announced. The Supreme Court, with DMP-2001 as the point of reference, notified (a) closure and relocation of all H category industries out of Delhi; (b) relocation of all units from non-conforming areas to specified industrial zones; (c) construction of 15 central effluent treatment plants (CETPs) to treat effluents of the existing 28 industrial areas.

CLOSURE OF INDUSTRIES: The DMP-2001 came into force in August, 1990. According to the Supreme Court order (dated 8 July, 1996), the H category industries should have shifted by 1993. It notes that since January 1995 the concerned industries had been given several opportunities to comply with the requirements. In 1996, the court directed 1,328 industries to close and relocate. In February, 1998, the commissioner of industries and the member secretary of Delhi Pollution Control Committee (PPCC) confirmed the closure of 1,328 industries.

Interestingly, while some thought was spared for the question of compensation to workers, the wider socio-economic issue of loss of livelihood of low income workers merited no discussion.

RELOCATION: Muddying the Delhi government's moves to relocate nearly 90,000 units from the so called non-conforming areas, 45,000 units did not bother to do so because they are still illegal. So far, 52,000 units applied for land to avoid closure.

The Delhi government soon realised that reallocation was extremely complicated and involved high costs. In October 1996, it requested an extension of the submission date for its industrial policy which had been set for 30 November, 1996. However, even till February 1998, land had yet to be allocated to the industries.

CENTRAL EFFLUENT TREATMENT PLANTS: Industries produce waste water, solid waste and air pollutants. The CKTPS are used to process the waste water before it is discharged into drains or other water bodies. In May, 1996, the court ordered the creation of 15 societies based on the 28 industrial zones for the construction of CETPs.

The court made it mandatory for all units within the society to participate in the setting up of a CETP.

The construction cost of a CETP is Rs 5 to 7 crore and its operating cost per annum is Rs 2.5 crore. A cost-sharing progamme was agreed upon: the Centre and the Delhi government would contribute 25 per cent each and the industry 50 per cent. The owners would contribute 20 per cent to the industry's share and the remaining 30 per cent would be available as loan from Industrial Development Bank of India. Members of the 15 societies were asked to deposit the amount by 5 December, 1997, with the Delhi State Industrial Development Corporation (DSIDC), overseeing the construction of these plants. National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NF.ERI) was given charge of design and technical monitoring of CKTPS.

Identification of land for establishing CETPs has already begun, but may prove to be one of the most intractable problems. As the Rohtak Road Manufacturers Association in Anand Parbat noted, in one instance, the land identified by NH.ERI for siting the CCTP was legally occupied by a petrol station, shops and a temple. Confusing the issue are contradictory orders. Even though a CI;TP is to be set up, in February 1998, the DDA declared the area as non-conforming.
What's been achieved? THE CLOSURE: With the closure of these units, some reduction in local ambient pollution will have taken place. Moreover, most of these units dealing in hazardous products are located in densely populated areas (see map: Precarious sites) which means high risk to human lives in case of leakages, spillage and accidents. These risks would be considerably reduced with the closure of these units. Gains have also been made by some industrialists.India's existing policy and strong trade unions make closure of large ailing industries difficult. The order was an opportunity for some to shut down their units.

The need to balance environmental gains with socio-economic imperatives is illustrated by the human and social costs of closures. However, no government data is available on the number, or the status, of workers rendered unemployed by the closure. "We don't know anything about how many people were unemployed or whether they received compensation or not. We are not a party to the problem," says R Sahni, deputy commissioner of labour.

Official, trade union and non-governmental organisation (NGO) sources say none of the workers, except those in Ayodhya Textile Mills (a government enterprise), had been paid compensation. DFOF noted that most of these industries have limited capital and often rely on loans. However, a survey by this author shows that 54 per cent of factory owners had enough capital to either expand, improve product or increase productivity. What this means is that owners weren't really interested in paying up. Efforts by workers to obtain the money through legal channels have turned out to be a long-drawn affair. Interviews with workers in Jhuggi Jhonpri (slum) colonies in the north, west and central Delhi indicate most workers have had to accept irregular, part-time, low-paying jobs as they can hardly afford to stay unemployed.

RELOCATION: The industries paid an earnest money of 10 per cent of the cost of the plot, but have not been allotted the plots as yet. "They have collected crores of rupees from us," says D B Rao, secretary, Delhi Factory Owner's Association, "but nothing has been done till now." Delhi chief minister Sahib Singh Verma had said, "Out of 52,000 units which have deposited the money, 25, 000 units opting for plots up to 100 square metre will be allotted plots before April, 1997." But the factory owners are still waiting.

Secondly, the industrialists are very unhappy at the way the plots are being allotted. No survey of the industries has been made for identifying the area or the labour employed. "They have arbitrarily allotted plots oflOO, 200, 300 and 400 sq m," says Rao. "At present we have an area of about 1000 sq m and employ 5,000 people. How do you expect us to move our factory to a plot of 400 sq m? We cannot retrench our employees," laments R Rajamani, the deputy-general manager (projects), Delhi Flour Mills.

In another instance, according to a regional planner, "On the one hand, they have identified Narela as a sub city and, on the other, they are putting up these huge industrial estates right next to it. What will happen to the environment here?" He says that relocation is just a postponement of the actual issues. According to the DMP, an urban extension (Narela sub city of which Bawana is a part) can have some economic activities which are essential to sustain the existing population. Apparently, the Delhi government has taken this point to justify the establishment of industries at Narela. But, according to DMP, this area is not even an urban extension and there is a need to modify the plan itself, says the planner.

A regional planner, Suresh Rohilla said, "Bawana lies alongside the Western Yamuna Canal and, in the absence of adequate infrastructure for water supply, the industries are sure to tap this source. Not only will that contaminate the water but sump the solid waste also. This will have very dangerous connotations."

Another important question is whether relocation will lead to real reduction of pollution or will it only relocate pollution areas. Besides reallocation, absolute reduction would require use of environment-friendly technology and setting up of ETPS. However, these are not the basic requirements for the industries in the court order. Industries already view expenditure on environmental measures as unproductive, hence it is highly probable that many industries will not do much on this front. Thus, it is difficult to see how any substantial environmental gains that can be made.

SETTING UP OF CETPs: If CFTPs operate effectively and efficiently they will be able to considerably reduce land and water pollution. This survey, carried out by the author, indicated that electro-plating, dyeing, textiles, chemical treatment of metal, casting of metal in foundries are widespread in Delhi and are also the main producers of liquid waste. These units rank among the 20 highly polluting industries in India. Thus effective treatment of effluents from these units will have considerable benefits.

However, discussions with the various manufacturers' associations, individuals and a review of national experience in setting up and operating CETPs helped to identify the hurdles in functioning CE'iTs effectively. These are: e Obtaining an appropriate site for building the plant can be problematic.

An industrial estate contains many types of industries. Each type uses different raw materials and produces different kinds of wastes organic, inorganic, toxic. Combining different types of wastes could lead to loss of efficiency and increase operating costs of CETPs.

The problem of mixed load can be resolved by primary treatment of waste before discharge for treatment at the central plant.

It is not clear how the operation costs would be shared by the members of a CKTP association. Fixing rental values based on load type and quantity may encourage industries to upgrade technology to reduce pollution at source.

The short-sighted approach to environmental problems is reflected in the absence of any discussions on how these plants will be managed.

Interestingly, the money for construction of CETPs has already been collected but work has not started. Says Rao, "The cost apportionment is not correct, and no one is happy with the design of NEERI. And no sample survey has been done." The industries have already paid Rs 7 crore but the decision on who will construct the CETP is yet to be taken. According to J R Jindal, president of the CETP societies, "We do not want the USIDC to build the CETPs so the matter is still in court." Many industrial societies are also refusing to participate in setting up CETPs on the ground that individual The money for construction of CETPs has been collected but work has not started industries have their own treatment facilities, as in the case of Okhla industrial society.In the long run
The present measures are distracting attention from the main sources of urban pollution. In 1995, Delhi was declared the most polluted city in India. The main source was vehicular pollution, emissions from three thermal power stations comes second and, pollution from industrial units comes third. The present policy of setting-up CETPs addresses only a small part of the problem. Secondly, the dispersal of units to less urbanised areas with poor infrastructure will perhaps allow greater freedom to pollute and will make monitoring of these units more costly. It would be better if resources are invested in providing information to industries on low cost technological options. However, this would require good environmental governance based on well-thought out policy. Judicial decisions based on physical plans of the DDA and the technical advice from PCBS is strengthening a technocratic approach and is reinforcing an official strategy to environmental problems which is fractured, partial and opportunistic.

Some of the implications for environmental policy arc:

Setting up CETPs is seen as the panacea of all environmental problems. Unfortunately, it has allowed some industries the opportunity to avoid technological changes which they are capable of undertaking and which would have reduced pollution at source. S C Maudgal, technical advisor to the ministry of environment and forest, conceded that this is indeed the case. He added that judicious fixing of rentals for CETP members would be vital to initiating technological change.

Unless businesspersons are made aware that it makes good business sense to improve efficiency in energy use, material recovery and minimise wastes, no real environmental progress will be made.

It is very difficult to reconcile the tensions that emerge from the contradictions between environmental needs and economic imperatives. However, in the case of Delhi, authorities are almost dismissive about the fate of more than 1.25 lakh workers. Ignoring social issues in the name of environment may mean more harm in the long run.

The present control-based environmental strategies can only make minimalistic gains. The judicial orders have not provided solutions. On the contrary, they have reinforced trends which could impede and delay the introduction of improved environmental management and governance.

Nandini Dasgupta is a reader at the Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, the UK (With inputs from Vineet Katariya)

FUTURE TENSE
Various types of industries based in Delhi and their fate according to the Delhi Master Plan-2001

CATEGORY DEFINITION FATE ACCORDING TO DMP-2001
H(a)

All units using/producing hazardous and noxious products Would have to move out of Delhi, beyond the NCR
H(b)



Heavy and large industries


No new industries would be permitted
Existing ones would have to shift to the DMA or NCR
Modernisation of existing units would be permitted on condition that it reduces pollution and traffic congestion
G

Industrial estates located in rural areas and is not included in this study  
F

Extensive industries

No new units shall be permitted except in the existing industrial area identified for extensive identified for extensive industries
B, C and E


Light and service industries

Units with 20 or more workers shall be shifted to industrial use zone
Units with 10-19 workers mat continue to operate but shall be reviewed are 5 years
A


household industries


May operate in residential areas, on the condition they occupy  25 per cent or less of the plot size employ a maximum of 5 workers and use a maximum load of 1 KW

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