Will diluted industry policy hamper Delhi’s environment?

Giving boost to small industries, Delhi government has allowed entrepreneurs to set up units without a consent to operate


Thick foam flows down the polluted Yamuna river at Okhla barrage in Delhi (Photo: Vikas Choudhary)

Clarifying the recent order by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government, Directorate of Industries and Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) officials have said that the industries that are polluting by nature will need a Consent to Operate (CTO) and Consent to Establish (CTO) for a new plant.

The order was given by the AAP industries minister Satyendra Jain. Delhi, which was declared an “air pollution control area” under an act in 1981, is likely to witness a spike in pollution if new industries are allowed to start operation of their plants without the consent.

On Monday, Jain announced that in order to ensure the ease of doing business in the city, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) will not need a CTO by DPCC and a trade licence by Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to register and operationalise a factory. However, the new circular issued by directorate of industries states that entrepreneurs who have to fill up a memorandum [called Entrepreneur Memorandum (EM)] during the registration can do so without submitting CTO and a trade license.

The memorandum, divided into two parts, is a step-by-step process. The first part of the memorandum (EM II), as stated in Section 8 of the MSME Development Act, is to be filled up by any person who intends to establish a micro, small or medium enterprise engaged in providing or rendering of services to District Industries Centre. Once the above enterprises start production or start providing or rendering services, they should file Part II of the Entrepreneurs Memorandum (EM II) to District Industries Centre. The new circular states that even when filing EM II, which has to be filled within two years of filling EM I, CTO of DPCC and trade license will not be required.

K Mahesh of Directorate of Industries, however, clarifies that the directorate is not asking polluting industries to stop taking consent from DPCC or MCD, but is simply saying that those consents need not be submitted to the Directorate of Industries for registration. “So, if there is a polluting industry that is required to take consent to operate from the DPCC, they still need to take the consent, but the enterprise may or may not submit the same consent received from DPCC and likewise MCD to Directorate of Industries,” he added. Industries Directorate has also carried a note saying that the issue of this acknowledgement does not bestow any legal right. “The enterprise is required to seek requisite clearance/license/permit under statutory obligation stipulated under the laws of the Central and state government,” the note adds. Although MSME Development Act is a Central law, state governments have to acknowledge it.

Late entry

According to a DPCC official, the exemption issued by Industries Directorate does not necessarily relate to green or orange category—a classification based on kind of processes and pollutants generated by an industry—it is investment-based and has not kept into consideration the pollution potential of the industry. “Earlier a CTO was required by any industry to obtain registration, now no prior consent will be required to obtain this registration. However, for industries that are polluting in nature, a CTO/CTE will be required,” the official told Down To Earth.

However, DPCC’s entry to check whether a unit is polluting or not from the time an entrepreneur registers to the plant’s operation now stands delayed. Now the Industries Directorate will forward the registration forms to DPCC and MCD for their records. In case an industry needs consent from the relevant authority under the purview of the Air and Water Act, they still need to obtain it from the DPCC. DPCC officials will determine whether an industry will need consent or not. By the time DPCC steps in to check an entrepreneur after identifying a certain process, the plant would be operational.

While for budding entrepreneurs, this circular is a boon as it helps in removing a bottleneck, it might just be bad news for city’s environment. Earlier, DPCC used to apply six different criteria to grant consent to operate to any industry in Delhi. The general criteria used are location of the unit, permissibility of the activity as per Master Plan of Delhi-2021, complete information given in the form, installation of Effluent Treatment Plants (ETPs)/Emission Control System (ECS), if required, status of diesel generator sets and enclosures required, and more importantly findings during inspections conducted. According to the new circular, DPCC will not be required to visit the said factory unit until it starts production or rendering its services as industries have been exempt from giving these details in EM 2. It is only after Industries Directorate sends details of the registered industries to DPCC and MCD, the polluting aspect, if any, can be checked.  

While hassle-free and speedy business operations are crucial for the state’s economy, Delhi’s environment has deteriorated for over past three decades. Way back in 1981, the government had passed Delhi Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act. Section 19 of the Act stated that industries proposed to be set up in Delhi have to get consent to operate as it was declared as the Air Pollution Control area. Further, Section 21 of this Act states that no person shall, without the previous consent of the DPCC, establish or operate any industrial plant (any plant used for any industrial or trade purpose) in an air pollution control area. With the circular coming into force, the industries can go ahead and set up these plants until DPCC conducts a check.

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