Board trouble

A new report severely castigates the functioning of India's pollution control boards

Published: Tuesday 31 July 2001

there is no doubt that state pollution control boards ( spcb s) in India have failed to enforce environmental regulations, monitor and control pollution. A recent review of the spcb s conducted by the Programme Evaluation Organisation ( peo ) at the instance of Planning Commission corroborates this fact.

peo undertook a review of all 25 spcb s with an objective to study their organisational structure, staff composition, finances and training requirements. The reference period for the study was from 1992-93 to 1996-97 and to the year 1997-98. The findings are very disturbing. Though the duties for spcb s require members to have a technical background, the review finds that non-technical members dominate many spcb s. The Himachal Pradesh board, for instance, has all its eight members from the bureaucracy.

"If these posts are filled with people from the bureaucracy or the forest service who have little technical knowledge, the spcb s are bound to fare poorly. They can't even guide the junior staff," says D K Biswas, chairperson, Central Pollution Control Board. "It is estimated that the Andhra Pradesh board has only one technical person to monitor around 100 polluting units," says the review report. Another major problem is that a number of posts in spcb s have been lying vacant for a long time. The same is the case with many other boards, including Punjab with 54 per cent and Goa with 46 per cent of sanctioned staff strength lying vacant. "These trends suggest that the recruitment of staff, particularly technical staff, is not based on any scientific criterion," says the review report.

" spcb s lack qualified personnel to perform their job. Instead of having technical people to monitor, they have non-technical people who often harass the industries, instead of making them comply to the norms," says L Ramakrishnan, regional environmental coordinator with Philips India, Pune.

Inventorisation of 17 categories of highly polluting industries is another way of assessing the performance of the spcb s in monitoring industrial pollution in their states. Here again many pollution control boards have failed with abysmally low inventorisation ratios. Even the inventorisation of the small-scale highly polluting units is very poor. "It is very hard to monitor the small units and they pose a serious problem," says Biswas.

Non-installation of pollution control equipment by the polluting units is a direct consequence of the absence of any effective punitive and deterrent mechanism in case of non-compliance, the report points out.

The review report also points out a poor record in crucial areas like environmental research, awareness generation, publicity, research and development. "The existing system of industrial pollution control exhibits symptoms of underdevelopment," says the report.

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