Published: Tuesday 31 January 1995

Public sector's apology for environmental awareness

I live across the harbour from Bombay and travel frequently to the city. For several weeks now I have been noticing dense, black smoke and constant mistiness across the sky from our home, which faces Bombay. I have been suspecting that this was due to emissions from either the Uran Refinery or the Rashtriya Chemicals and Fertilizers (RCF) factory.

Travelling by the Rewas Ferry to Sant Dhyaneswar became a harrowing experience for me last month. It took us 2 hours at the harbour jetty and then another 90 minutes travelling to Bombay. Throughout, thick black smoke enveloped us. It was belching out of the chimney stacks of the Uran Refinery. It completely covered the sky, the boat and the skyline. The city, a breathtaking sight from the boat, was virtually obliterated. Smoke hurt the eyes and choked us. The ferry master complained that he suffers this ever day.

Today everyone is talking about environmental awareness and the need to make plants and factories non-polluting. We have just concluded the first national level meeting on conservation and environment. At such times it is sad to see the public sector -- which was expected to set standards for other sectors -- paying scant respect to these norms and principles. On the contrary, it is adding to the already dangerous levels of pollution.

I have spent over two decades as an activist, educating people on several issues of urgent public interest, and I feel it imperative to bring this to the notice of your readers. This is all the more critical in view of the latest agreement with British Gas to supply piped gas to Bombay.

I am sending a copy of this letter to the District Collector, Raigad, who has already expressed willingness to penalise the offenders. ...

Safer dyes are doable

The article Green Standards put India in the Red (DTE Nov 15, 1994) is quite provocative, in the sense that dye industries are least concerned with the environment they pollute. I think pollution associated with the dyes business can be tackled much conveniently and I am prepared to help the concerned industries in this matter.

In the case of dyes prepared by oxidation with hydrogen peroxide, reduction in colour fastness may be due to the incomplete oxidation of the reactants. Some people use potassium dichromate -- a major pollutant -- as an alternative. But this is not at all required.

As a matter of fact any, Redox reaction can be treated as an electrochemical cell reaction and the cell potential of the oxidation reaction (in the preparation of the dye) can be calculated. From this value, appropriate alternative oxidizing agents may be found out and the dichromate may be eliminated. One of the necessary conditions is that the complete reaction should be made available to find a non-polluting route.

If the authors let me have the details, I would like to try and solve some of their problems. ...

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