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In an open letter to CM, top environmentalist wonders why is Gujarat govt silent on danger of chemical disaster

Rohit Prajapati
By Our Representative
In an open letter to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, senior Vadodara-based environmentalist Rohit Prajapati of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti has wondered why is the CM so shy of providing answers to permanent resident Gujaratis (PRGs), who have repeatedly asked him certain questions on issues related with people’s concerns. The letter has been written against the backdrop of the CM’s address satellite-based to non-resident-Gujaratis (NRG), who live in the US, as he did on May 12. The letter following questions Prajapati wants Modi to answer:
1. Former finance minister of Gujarat Vajubhai Vala January 11, 2011 said while addressing a day-long pre-Vibrant Gujarat Summit seminar at Ahmedabad Management Association on ‘Industry Responsive Skill Development: The Emerging Trends in Gujarat’ that “A farmer engaged in agriculture on a five acre plot will earn enough only for his family. But if an industry is set up on that land, it will provide sustenance to families of 25-30 thousand workers.” He asked local industrialists not to spoil workers by giving them more than what is rightfully due to them. The CM should clarify his position.
2. The CM’s book “Convenient Action – Gujarat’s Response to Challenges of Climate Change” selectively presents information and data which are convenient to defend the ‘development model’ being pursued by the state. Even the Gujarat Ecology Commission (GEC) report acknowledges the abysmal status of the environment in Gujarat. Why did he base his book on cherry-picked evidence that ignores the level of irreversible environmental degradation in the state of Gujarat? He has included in book on page 132-133 a photo of the Common Effluent Treatment Plant of Vapi, a facility which has not been able to fulfill the environmental norms prescribed by Gujarat Pollution Control Board since many years. While the photo is very large, there is no discussion about the functioning of CETP of Vapi. The book completely ignores the failure of all major ‘industrial effluent treatment facilities’ of Gujarat. Why?
3. Gujarat is the only state where all registered chemical factories have been identified and categorized in various hazard classes by the Directorate Industrial Safety and Health. Considering their hazard potential, Major Accident Hazard (MAH) factories are identified as per standard norms of related law. Gujarat state is having highest total 497 MAH Class factories, which amounts 30 per cent of MAH factories in India. At present in Gujarat, 3204 B +C class hazardous chemical factories are identified. Gujarat is having total 30,310 factories registered under the Factories Act (employing directly 94,567 workers) out of which total 4,559 (15 per cent) are hazardous chemical factories. Yet, the Gujarat State Disaster Management Authority (GSDMA) doesn't seem to think that chemical industries have potential to cause chemical disasters in the state. In an RTI reply it said, “A chemical emergency plan is currently under consideration”. It adds, it does not have information on “numbers and names of the chemical industries, chemical used, final product, pollutant generated and its impact, also information about engineered landfill site -- treatment storage and disposal facility, effluent treatment plants, common effluent treatment plants, etc.” The CM as chairperson of the GSDMA should clarify his position on environmental disasters.
4. A complaint was made against residential and commercial complexes coming up in the vicinity of hazardous solid waste sites in Ahmedabad (Vatva and Naroda) in violation of GPCB notification on industrial hazardous solid waste and Hazardous Waste (Management & Handling) Rules, 1989. These complexes were in violation of the CPCB and GPCB guideline and norms requiring a 500 meter safety distance from TSDFs and CETPs to residential complexes. Instead of punishing the violating builders/contractors, the forest and environment department and urban development Department of Gujarat decided, in the meeting dated September 5, 2011, to relax the required 500 meter safety radius to only 100 meters for the purpose of legalizing all illegal residential complexes which came after the notification. For future, it was decided that the 500 meter distance would be enforced. This post-facto regularization of illegal residential complexes sends a clear message that the safety norms can be bent to accommodate economic interests. The CM should clarify his position on this issue, especially the acceptability of changing laws to accommodate violators.
5. As treatment facilities of Gujarat continue to be unable to meet Gujarat Pollution Control (GPCB) norms, a moratorium on opening new industries or expansion of existing industries was declared for the Ankleshwar area on July 7, 2007, and now the Union ministry of environment and forests has extended till further order. Later, on January 13, 2010 a moratorium was declared for other areas like Vatva, Bhavnagar, Junagadh, Vapi, etc. The moratorium was subsequently lifted for Vapi, Bhavnagar and Junagadh areas because of pressure of the Gujarat government. This was objected to for Vapi because treatment facility at Vapi was not able to meet GPCB norms. Recently, the moratorium for Vatva and Ankleshwar is extended. What does the CM have to say regarding the industrial moratorium?
7. Why does the Gujarat government fail to have land use policy? Why is an abundance of chemical industries allowed in fertile land, including the 'vegetable basket' of India like Padra taluka of Vadodara district?
8. On May 7, 2004 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 657/1995, the Supreme Court ordered Gujarat to provide clean drinking water to residents of villages near Vapi, Ankleshwar, and Effluent Channel Project of Vadodara, where the water supply was irrevocably damaged by industrial activities. Yet, there are ongoing actions contrary to what the Court has ordered. This order is waiting for its implementation. When will the Gujarat government implement this order?
8. The quality of groundwater in Gujarat has reached at critical stage and yet it is being contaminated continuously. Orders for clean drinking water are passed based on the visit of the Supreme Court committee, and the committee is not able to visit all the affected villages of the Golden Corridor. The groundwater of about 14 districts and about 74 talukas of Gujarat are critically affected by pollution. Even if we take the routine parameter like Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), Total Hardness (TS), Dissolved Oxygen (DO), Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD), and some heavy metal like Cadmium, Copper, Lead, Mercury, Iron etc. Thus condition of the groundwater of Gujarat requires immediate attention as the rural population is deprived of the very basic need of safe drinking water and clean water for their animals and crops. Ahmedabad, Daskroi, Mehmedavad, Vadodara, Ankleshwar, Bardoli, Choryasi, Kamrej, Mangrol, Olpad, Palsana, Valod, Vyara, Navsari, Sanand, Dhoraji, Jetpur, Okha Mandal etc talukas are critically polluted. Amreli, Jambusar, Junagad, Mandvi, Kalol, Morvi, Upleta, Mahuva, Chorila, Dhangadhar, Limdi, Bansda, Umbergaon etc talukas are found moderately polluted. If we talk about Vatva to Vapi, the Golden Corridor, it is clear that 70 per cent of the groundwater is contaminated and it has reached the irreversible level. When is the Gujarat government going to act on this serious issue of contamination of ground water?
9. The air pollution situation is also alarming in the Golden Corridor of Gujarat. The Gujarat Pollution Control Board admits[in writing “5. PROBABLE POLLUTANTS: … (B) Air: HCL, SO2, NH3, H2S, NOx, PM2.5, PM10, VOCs, PAHs, PCBs, VINYL CHLORIDE. Note: Benzene, VOCs, PAHs, PCBs, vinyl chloride are not being monitored by GPCB, as no measuring facility is available with GPCB. This statement speaks for itself. In an advanced state like Gujarat, why do we not have facilities to take these basic measurements? Moreover, when will the government take actions to clean up the air quality, which has become some poor?
10. A direct outcome of our persistent efforts since 1994 has been forcing GPCB / government to act against Hema Chemicals of Vadodara which was responsible for illegal dumping of hazardous chromium waste in Gorwa area of Vadodara. As per the direction of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee the company has been ordered in year 2004 to pay Rs 17 Crore as first instalment towards remediation of the site. Why has the government failed to remove the hazardous waste dumped by Hema Chemicals, recover the Rs 17 crore fines from Hema Chemicals as per the direction of Supreme Court?
11. In Gujarat the Final Effluent Treatment Plant (FETP) of Ankleshwar which was inaugurated by you continues to be unable to meet the Gujarat Pollution Control Board’s norms. The project is designed to divert industrial pollution from Amla Khadi and the Narmada River. The FETP is operated by Bharuch Eco Aqua Infrastructure Ltd, (now known as ‘Narmada Clean Tech Ltd.’). The FETP was built by the sweat of tax payers. Out of a total project cost of Rs 131.43 crore, the industries paid only Rs 21.75 crores (about 17%); the rest of the tab (Rs 109 crore) was spent by the Central government, Gujarat government, and Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) -- all of which ultimately draw from public money. It is a familiar story: the profits are distributed privately, but the institutional costs and environmental burden are borne by another segment of the population. Why did the CM inaugurate the FETP pipeline project despite its non-compliance with the GPCB norms? Why did the CM endorse the public paying when industries pollute?
12. Which law allows the effluent that does not meet Gujarat Pollution Control Board norms to be discharged from Tadgam Sarigam Pipeline, from FETP, Ankleshwar, ECP, Vadodara, CETPs of Ahmedabad? The CM should clarify his position on the issue of such an open and blunt disregard of environment laws.
13. The Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000 is violated across the state. Why Gujarat Pollution Control Board has failed to implement this law?
14. As per the data provided by ‘The Director Industrial Safety and Health, Government of Gujarat’, 30.33 % of industries are closed in Gujarat as per Government of Gujarat’s own figures dated 1 January 2011. Why figures are not available up to 1 January 2013 on the website? Government of Gujarat is silent about the workers who must have lost their employment because of closure of these industries.

Comments

Ruchita Khurana said…
...In Solidarity
-Ruchita

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