Exploring softer options

Published: Friday 15 April 1994

-- In the March 8 hearing of the Taj pollution case, the Supreme Court agreed to consider a more humane way of tackling the problem instead of relocating the hundreds of polluting industries in Agra and shutting down the Mathura refinery.

Although the Court has threatened to close down the refinery -- which now uses coal -- if natural gas is not supplied to it within a year or two, "it also realises that the refinery is not the only source of pollution," says K K Venugopal, a senior counsel assisting the Court in the case. The largest pollutant in the area is the glass industry of Ferozabad, situated approximately 20 km from Agra, followed by the glass and iron foundries in Agra and the Mathura refinery located about 40 km from Agra.

Although the authorities have expressed their inability to extend the natural gas pipeline to the refinery before four years, experts have been told by the Court to study the possibility of supplying natural gas to the region in a phased manner. "The extension of the pipeline to Ferozabad within a year in the first phase would neutralise the most polluting areas close to the Taj. In the next phase, the pipeline could be extended to Agra, followed by an extension to Mathura in the final phase," suggests Venugopal.

"It would not be necessary to shift any industry if the plan turns out to be feasible," says Venugopal. In the meanwhile, the Court has declared that all industries using tar and coal within the Taj trapezium, a designated area around the monument which is most sensitive to pollution, may have to be moved out by an yet-unspecified date.

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