Monday, August 19, 2013

Citing industrial pollution, top environmentalist asks Centre not to lift ban on new industrial units in South Gujarat

Amla Khadi, most contaminated
 tributary of Narmada river
By Our Representative
In a letter to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), top Gujarat-based environment group,  Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, has urged the Government of India to ask industrial units of the Panoli Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) estate to bear the cost of Sanjali pond decontamination following dumping of industrial effluents, and pay for setting up two pollution-monitoring stations in village Sanjali and next to the National Highway. The letter has also asked the Centre to "strong steps" against units in Ankleshwar GIDC estate, for not doing enough to stop effluent contaminated rainwater from gushing from Amla Khadi towards Piraman, Ankleshwar and Diva villages.
Pointing out that there is a need to take "strong exemplary action against Narmada Clean Tech Ltd. of Ankleshwar for illegal discharge of chemical effluents", too, the letter, signed by senior environmentalist Rohit Prajapati, wants the Centre to continue keeping the entire area into “critical zone” till pollution issues of the region are not resolved. By keeping the whole area into "critical zone", the moratorium imposed on the region for setting up industrial units would continue.
Addressed to Jayanthi Natarajan, Minister of State for Environment and Forests, and Secretary, MoEF, as also other senior officials of the Central Pollution Control Board, the letter says, "The residents of Sanjali and Piraman villages are distressed with the air and industrial effluent pollution caused repeatedly by the Panoli and Ankleshwar GIDC estates. The Gram Panchayats have frequently complained, phoned and submitted all proofs to the Gujarat government."
Prajapati informed the Centre, "During our regular visits to monitor the environment, we have found that air and industrial pollution continues unabated in this area." Yet, most unfortunately, "the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) chairperson has reiterated publicly that the GIDC officials were ignoring GPCB’s directions, and he is helpless about the situation."
He added, "The pesticides, dyes and chemical industries in Panoli GIDC estate surrounding the Sanjali village contaminated the village pond with its untreated chemical waste in the past as also this year during monsoon in July. Though this happens frequently, the Gujarat government and the GPCB only take token measures." Worse, though contamination of the can be termed a disaster, the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority "also remains apathetic." 
On July 21, 2013 Prajapati said, he accompanied by Kantibhai Mistry, Zia Pathan of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Salimbhai Patel, deputy Sarpanch of Piraman village, Hitesh Baraiya, a senior assistant scientist of GPCB and others had visited Sanjali, Panoli and Ankleshwar. "During the visit, the red-yellow coloured industrial effluents of the Panoli GIDC industries could be seen in the Sanjali village", forcing the GPCB to take samples. 
"The untreated industrial effluent discharge from the Panoli GIDC could be seen flowing unabated across various village roads in Panoli GIDC. The GPCB authorities too were taken aback with such blatant flouting of rules by the industries. Villagers upset with the air pollution vented their anger before the visiting GPCB officials. They have lost confidence in the state government and the GPCB, which is indifferent towards blatant flouting of rules by the industries", Prajapati said.
Pointing out that the Narmada Clean Tech Ltd runs the final effluent treatment plant and monitors the chemical discharge in the Ankleshwar and Panoli GIDC estates and is empowered to fine the industries for violations as well, Prapapati further alleged, "the Narmada Clean Tech Ltd itself discharges untreated waste illegally in Amla Khadi, a fact accepted by the GPCB". Given this framework, he wondered, "How can one expect it to hold up the rulebook? It raises a fundamental question, who and when will take action against the Narmada Clean Tech Ltd?"
Prajapati further said, on July 20, 2013, when Piraman deputy Sarpanch Mr. Salimbhai Patel sought an answer from the Narmada Clean Tech Ltd authorities for repeated discharge of untreated industrial waste, and they replied that they were "not discharging it in Amla Khadi", when on the very same day, at 3 30 pm, Salimbhai Patel risking his personal wellbeing, trekked all the way in Amla Khadi to photograph and video record the discharge.
All this is happening when the Gujarat government and the industries of Ankleshwar, Panoli and Jhagadia GIDC estates are trying "with all their might to remove their area from critical zone tag; they do nothing to improve the much-needed critical infrastructure for pollution control," Prajapti said, adding, "Both, the government and the GPCB have failed to take any long term, deterrent measures against the polluting industries of the area." 

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