|Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani|
A senior Gujarat-based environmentalist has alleged that the state government and Government of India have begun a fresh move to lift the moratorium imposed Vapi, Ankleshwar and Vatva, which were characterized in 2010 some of the most polluted industrial clusters of India.
Rohit Prajapati of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), Vadodara, says that a strategy on how to lift the ban will be discussed by Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani with the industrial associations of these clusters at Ankleshwar on November 26, 2016.
“The government lackadaisical attitude towards pollution control is evident”, says Prajapati, adding, “There is no talk of environmental protection and pollution control on agenda and to consult the affected people of the area.”
Calling the move “unfortunate”, Prajapati says, “Both at the state and national level, government authorities are busy to cite the manipulated figures of the CEPI (Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index) so that, if not on ground, at least on paper they can show that there is substantial improvement in CEPI.”
Noting that it is an effort to “justify their decision to lift the moratorium from Vapi, Ankleshwar and Vatva”, he says, “In spite of severe pollution in these clusters, the government has no time to discuss with the affected people and the groups working in the area on environmental protection.”
Prajapati recalls, “The consistent follow up by the pollution-affected people, people’s organisations and NGOs regarding the increasing pollution levels in the industrial areas of India forced the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the State Pollution Control Boards in 1989 to initiate the process of indexing the critically polluted areas.”
“At that time 24 industrial areas, including Vapi, Ankleshwar, Ludhiana, were declared ‘critically polluted’,”, he says, adding, “In 2009 the CPCB and Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi, in consistence with the demands of the people’s organisations working on environmental issues decided to use a new method of ‘indexing the pollution levels’ of these areas, which is now known as Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI).”
CEPI includes air, water, land pollution and health risks to the people living in the area, he says, though regretting, the demand to include workers' health, productivity of land and quality of food/ agriculture produce in the index was rejected.
“In December 2009 the CEPI of 88 polluted industrial clusters was measured; it was then that the CPCB and the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) of the Government of India declared 43 of those as ‘critically polluted clusters’ and another 32 industrial areas as ‘severely polluted clusters’.”
“Following the study the MoEF, on January 13, 2010, issued a moratorium on the 43 critically polluted areas”, says Prajapati, adding, “Similar reports were prepared by CPCB in 2011 and 2013 but these reports were completely ignored by the past government and the Modi government.”
“Today”, he says, “There is some improvement but not up to the mark so that government can take the decision to lift the moratorium. Instead if we read the Control Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Zonal Office (West), Vadodara, Gujarat of July 2016 report the ‘ECP Industrial Cluster of Vadodara’ has also become critically polluted cluster.”