Thursday, September 10, 2015

Quantitative data from hospitals on diseases to determine India's new pollution norms, not "eco-geological factors"

By Our Representative
In a major move to “undermine” Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI), which was calculated for determining whether a particular region complies with environmental norms or not, the Government of India is all set to drop what are called “eco-geological factors” to determine pollution norms.
The eco-geological factors such factors which were calculated till the Narendra Modi government came to power included such norms as how air and water pollutants were affecting water bodies (rivers, lakes and ponds), ecological parks, sanctuaries, ecologically sensitive zones and buildings or monuments of historical, archaeological or religious significance.
According to informed sources, the new norms which under active consideration for inclusion would include, instead, the real-time observed values of the pollutants in the ambient air, surface water and groundwater in and around the industrial clusters, and not on how they affect eco-geological regions.
Also, the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change will be seeking health related data from hospitals in order to determine if health hazards of an industrial cluster are harmful.
For instance, said a report, for measuring air pollution, experts will consider the total number of hospital cases related to asthma, bronchitis, respiratory cancer, and acute respiratory infections, and the same would apply for checks on other types of pollution – diarrhea will suggest whether water in a particular region is polluted, for instance.
Environmentalist Sanjay Upadhyay, an advocate with the Supreme Court, believes this would completely “remove” any aspect of qualitative data and make the assessment “purely quantitative”, at a time when both are important.
Upadhyay has been quoted as saying, “It is unfortunate that CPCB is trying to dilute the CEPI parameters. In my view both qualitative and quantitative criteria are equally important.”
While the government believes that the new hospital-based norm will take care of 80 per cent of emissions from industrial sector and will bring transparency in implementation of pollution control regulations, environmentalists say the “dilution” was being done to help industry to do business in India without caring for pollution norms.
No sooner Narendra Modi took over as the Prime Minister of India in 2014, the Government of India did away with CEPI and dropped the classification of severely polluted and critically polluted industrial clusters, removing the ban imposed on industrialization of several clusters, including Vapi and Ankaleshwar in South Gujarat.
Under the classification effective before Modi came to power, 59 industries scored CEPI of between 60 and 100 points, and were classified “red”, or severely polluted, followed by orange, qualified as critically polluted.
Dropping this methodology as “subjective”, there is a strong view that this is part of the effort to undermine people’s consent while going ahead with any industrial project. Already, moves are underway to amend the Forest Rights Act to remove the necessity for prior informed consent of local Gram Sabhas in forest areas and the exemption coal mining companies from public hearings.

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