New units banned in 8 industrial areas; ban lifted from 10 others

Fresh pollution index revealed increasing pollution in industrial areas from where ban was lifted earlier
New units banned in 8 industrial areas; ban lifted from 10 others

The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has imposed a moratorium banning new industries in eight industrial clusters after a survey showed high pollution levels in these areas. These are the areas where a moratorium was imposed earlier but lifted subsequently on the basis of action plans submitted by state pollution control boards. The ministry has, meanwhile, lifted its ban on expansion on 10 industrial clusters.  

The two decisions are based on the revised Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI) score prepared by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The CEPI score is a measure of pollution of industrial areas after taking into account the source, magnitude and scale of pollution; the number of people affected and pollution control measures in place. 

The CEPI scores indicated increasing pollution trends in Ghaziabad (Uttar Pradesh or UP), Panipat (Haryana), Singrauli (UP and Madhya Pradesh), Vapi (Gujarat), Indore, (MP), Jharsuguda (Odisha), Ludhiana (Punjab) and Patancheru-Ballaram (Andhra Pradesh). Hence the moratorium was reimposed in these areas indefinitely (see table). The action plans executed in the past two and half years in these areas have been ineffective, according to the office memorandum of the ministry. 

In 2009, CPCB had evaluated the performance of 88 industrial clusters of the country and ranked them on the basis of the CEPI score card. Following this exercise, a moratorium was imposed by MoEF, banning any new industries or expansion in the top 43 polluting industrial areas. The ministry at that time specified that the moratorium would be lifted if the respective state pollution control boards (SPCBs) furnish time-targeted action plans to improve quality of the environment.  

Subsequently, different SPCBs started submitting action plans from time to time, based on which the ministry lifted moratorium from 26 industrial clusters over  a period. In the remaining 17 clusters, the moratorium was extended up to March 12, 2013 and thereafter it was extended till further orders. The eight industrial clusters where moratorium has been reimposed are among the 26 areas where moratorium was lifted. The ministry order has said that except for highway, common effluent treatment and municipal solid waste project, no other large polluting projects like thermal power plants, coal mines would be allowed in these critically polluted clusters.  Modernization of the existing industries in these areas would be allowed, but the pollution load is expected to remain the same if not decrease.

CPCB carried out monitoring in the critically polluted areas from February to April this year and re-assessed the CEPI score of these critically polluted areas. It found decreasing trend of pollution in 10 clusters. Hence, the ban was lifted from these industrial clusters.

The seven (out of 17) industrial clusters where moratorium will continue are: Ankleshwar (Maharashtra), Chandrapur (Maharashtra), Pali (Rajasthan), Vatva (Gujarat), Vellore (Tamil Nadu), Najafgarh Drain Basin (UT Delhi) and Jodhpur (Rajasthan). These are areas that have been given CEPI score of above 70 and show either increasing trend or no change as compared to values observed in 2011.

There has been a lot of criticism earlier over the mitigation action plans submitted by SPCBs based on which moratoriums were lifted. Analysis by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a non-profit based in Delhi, in 2011 showed that the projections in the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board’s mitigation action plan in Cuddalore are misleading. Similarly, high mercury levels in human samples in one of the critically polluted industrial area Singrauli was brought out by CSE in October this year 

Measuring pollution

May 1989: Exercise to identify critically polluted areas in India undertaken for the first time in a meeting of chairpersons and member secretaries of the Central and state pollution control boards.

At that time 24 critically polluted areas were identified, including Vapi, Ankleshwar and Ludhiana. It was then decided that a comprehensive, time-bound programme would be evolved for these areas. Several review meetings followed but there was no improvement in the 24 industrial hubs.

In 2009, CPCB collaborated with IIT-Delhi and other institutes to evolve a new evaluation method and rank polluted areas. The Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI) was evolved.

December 2009: CPCB evaluates 88 industrial areas using CEPI.

January 2010: MoEF releases list of 43 critically polluted areas on the basis of CEPI; imposes moratorium on expansion, setting up new industries in these areas until SPCBs submit mitigation action plan.

October 2010: States submit mitigation action plans. Moratorium lifted in five critically polluted areas, including Vapi, Coimbatore and Tarapur.

February 2011: Moratorium lifted from eight more areas, including Cuddalore, Navi Mumbai, Ludhiana, Agra and Aurangabad.

March 2011: Moratorium lifted from seven more areas, including Faridabad, Ghaziabad and Noida.

May 2011: Moratorium lifted from three more areas with conditions. These are: Mangalore, Greater Cochi and Bhadravati. Moratorium on other areas were to stay till September 30, 2011.

July 2011: Moratorium lifted from Singrauli and IB Valley, Odisha. In the remaining clusters moratorium extended till March 31, 2012.

March 2012: Moratorium extended till further orders.

February-April, 2013:  CPCB reassess the CEPI score.

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