Environmentalists call for re-imposing moratorium on industrial town in Gujarat
Vapi, an industrial town in south Gujarat, has topped the list of critically polluted areas in the country, reveals the new Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI) score interim report, released by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The finding belies all claims made by the state pollution control board and industry on working tirelessly to implement mitigation action plan since CEPI score was first released in 2009. Vapi ranked second in the 2009 list.
Ankleshwar, another industrial town in Gujarat, topped the list in 2009 with a score of 88.50. It is now occupying the seventh position in the list of 43 critically polluted areas with a CEPI score of 85.75. The second slot is occupied by Angul Talcher in Odisha with a score of 89.74. It was in the seventh place last year with a score of 82.09.
CEPI is a scientific method devised by CPCB in collaboration with IIT-Delhi and other premier environmental institutes to evaluate and rank critically polluted areas. Critically polluted areas are those where air, water and land pollution exceed the assimilative capacity of the environment, affecting human health. Any industrial cluster which scores more than 70 is considered critically polluted. According to the interim assessment, CEPI of Vapi has increased from 88.37 in 2009 to 90.75 in 2012. The CEPI levels of ambient air and water quality in Vapi industrial cluster have also increased. The CEPI level of ambient air has increased from 74 in 2009 to 76.50 in 2012 while that of water has increased from 74.50 in 2009 to 79.50 in 2012. However, the CEPI score for land has improved from 72.00 in 2009 to 71.75 in 2012. This is mainly because of the clearance of illegal dumps of solid hazardous waste by Vapi Waste Effluent Management Corporation Limited.
Only claims, no action
Just after the first CEPI scores were announced in January 2010, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) had imposed a moratorium on the expansion and setting up new industries in these critically polluted areas until the state pollution control boards submit mitigation action plans. MoEF lifted the moratorium from Vapi in October 2010, immediately after the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) submitted the action plan listing various activities to bring down the pollution levels. The deadline of the most activities has already ended in December last year. “We are taking all important measures to bring down the pollution levels and carrying out regular inspection to check the rising pollutant levels,” said G V Patel, regional officer, GPCB when Down To Earth spoke to him in January this year.
But the recent CEPI score proves otherwise. The interim assessment was jointly carried out by the CPCB and state pollution control boards. The final assessment will be based on the analysis of the action plans, reads the statement released by CPCB.
When Patel was contacted this time, he chose to remain silent and said, “no comments.” The head of Vapi Industries Association, Ashok Shukla, was also not available for comments despite repeated attempts.
Down To Earth had reported about the grim situation in Vapi in its July 1-15 cover story ‘Dirty Forever’. The laboratory report of effluent samples collected by Centre for Science and Environment, a Delhi based non-profit, from Vapi had shown that pollutant levels in the industrial town were way higher than permissible limits. Through the story, Down To Earth had indicated that the removal of moratorium before pollution norms are met may make the industries complacent. The recent CEPI score has only proved its fears true.
“MoEF should now seriously consider re-imposing the moratorium as the basis on which it was removed has clearly shown no results,” says Rohit Prajapati, an environmental activist based in Vadodara.
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