Green tribunal orders closure of polluting industries along river Ulhas

People living near Dombivali industrial cluster suffer from gastro-intestinal and respiratory diseases but no action was being taken, say activists

By Soundaram Ramanathan
Published: Thursday 05 December 2013

The National Green Tribunal's Pune bench recently passed an interim order, directing the state pollution control board to shut down polluting industries along the Ulhas river. The order was given on a petition filed by non-profit Vanashakti, which complained that Dombivali industrial cluster is polluting the river and affecting the health of people.

Located in Pune, the cluster has more than 500 industries and a residential area, together spread over 347.88 hectares of land. More than a million people live in the area. The industrial cluster has industries which manufacture products like pesticides and drugs in bulk. Out of more than 500 industries, 345 have been labelled as “red category” or “highly polluting” by the pollution control board.

V P Solankay, regional officer of Maharashtra pollution control board said, “The industrial area has been operating for many years. Previously there were not many buildings/settlements in the area. But now settlements and buildings have come up. Hence, these issues are cropping up.” He, however, refused to comment on their pollution status, saying inspections are going on and it will take some time to list the polluting industries.

The area generates approximately 535 kg biomedical waste (there are 41 hospitals in the vicinity) a day, 320 kg of hazardous waste and nearly 14 million litres a day (mld) of industrial effluents.  The treated industrial effluent is finally discharged into the creeks of the river Ulhas through an open nalla which passes through residential area. Of the domestic sewage generated in the area, about 52 mld is discharged untreated into the river.

What does pollution index study say?

The comprehensive environmental pollution index (CEPI) study by CPCB has identified Dombivali cluster area as one among the 80 most polluted industrial cluster of the country.

The study by CEPI considers the air, water and land pollution of a particular industrial cluster and is based on the pollution levels the industrial clusters are assigned — scores ranging from 100 to 0, with 100 for most polluted and 0 for the least polluted. The Dombivali area scored 78.41 in the 2010 CEPI study. It was identified as the 14th most polluted cluster of the country.

Following this, a moratorium on new industries or expansion was imposed over the area and various actions plans were prepared by the regulators to address the problem of pollution. But based on execution reports of the action plans, the moratorium was withdrawn in February 2011. In a revised CEPI study in 2013, the area scored 72.29.

“Pollution in the area has been a problem for long. In fact this area is one among the worst polluted areas of Maharashtra and the people here are suffering from gastro-intestinal diseases and respiratory diseases because of pollution,” said Sharin Dyanand of Vanshakti, a petitioner in the case. She added that no action has been taken against the polluting industries despite people protesting many times and even presenting evidences like samples of water to the concerned authorities. “Even the dharnas organized by us have failed to create any impact. So as a final effort to resolve the problem, we decided to file this petition in the court,” said the worried environmentalist.

The case is listed for further hearing on December 16 and the pollution control board is expected to submit the report of action taken by then.

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