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Ban on industrial activity reimposed on Vapi, continues for Ankaleshwar and Vatva. Ahmedabad is spared

By Our Representative
In a major setback to Gujarat’s efforts to overcome pollution in its environmentally critical regions, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), Government of India, has decided to re-impose ban on industrial activity on the industrial cluster of Vapi in South Gujarat, even as continuing with the ban imposed by it in 2010 on the industrial clusters of Ankaleshwar, also in South Gujarat, and Vatva, which is off Ahmedabad. The MoEF order, while re-imposing the ban on industrial activity on Vapi, has said that its Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI), as assessed this year, has failed to show any tendency towards implementing an action plan to end pollution.
At the same time, the MoEF declared it has lifted moratorium on industrial activity on Ahmedabad saying, “The evaluation of the CEPI score in 17 areas where moratorium is still in place indicates that the CEPI score in 10 areas namely Bhiwadi (Rajasthan), Dhanbad (Jharkhand), Manali (Tamilnadu), Ahmedabad (Gujarat), Korba (Chhattisgarh), Asansole (West Bengal), Haldia (West Bengal), Howrah (West Bengal), Vishakapatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and Kanpur (UP) is below 80 and has shown a decreasing trend as compared to the CEPI score assessed by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2011.”
Vapi, significantly, is not alone where the ban has been reimposed. The MoEF order identifies seven other industrial clusters of India which have failed to implement an action plan to implement pollution control measures after the ban was conditionally lifted two years ago. The revised CEPI scores, assessed in 2013, suggest that there are eight critically polluted areas, where pollution levels have begun to rise again, with Vapi topping with the highest CEPI of 85.31, followed by Ghaziabad (UP), 84.13, Singrauli (UP and MP) 83,24, Panipat (Haryana) 81.27, Jharsuguda (Odisha) 78.75, Patancheru-Bollaram (Andhra Pradesh) 76.05, and Ludhiana (Punjab) 75.72.
The MoEF order states, “The CEPI score indicates that even after a period of two-and-a-half years of implementation of action plans, there is no improvement in the environmental quality as is evident from the observed values of CEPI in 2013” in anyof these clusters. Here, “the CEPI score has shown an increasing trend as compared to 2011. In view of this situation, the moratorium is hereby re-imposed with immediate effect in respect of these eight areas till further orders”, it declares.
The order adds that the ban on industrial activity in Vatva (near Ahmedabad) and Ankaleshwar (in South Gujarat) would continue. These two Gujarat industrial clusters are part a list which contains five others – Chandrapur (Maharashtra), Pali (Rajasthan), Vellore (Tamil Nadu), Najafgarh Drain Basin (UT Delhi) and Jodhpur (Rajasthan) – “where the CEPI score is either above 80 or is above 70 and showing either increasing trend or no change as compared to values observed in 2011”, the order states.
The order further says, the moratorium was first imposed on January 13, 2010 up to August 31, 2010 “on consideration of projects for environmental clearance to be located in 43 critically polluted areas/ industrial clusters identified by Central Pollution Control Board. It was envisaged that during the period of moratorium, time bound action plans will be prepared by the respective state pollution control boards for improving the environmental quality in these industrial clusters / areas. The action plans so prepared would be finalized by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The period of moratorium was extended beyond August 31, 2010 from time to time.”
The order disallows any independent state government environment assessment and clearance of projects in the critically polluted areas. It says that even for projects of public interest, a prior approval would have to be needed from the MoEF. Such projects, which are normally under category B, require clearance from the State Environmental Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) and they need not go the the MoEF for clearance. However, as for the critically polluted areas, all projects “are to be considered as category A projects” requiring MoEF clearance, hence “the reference to SEIAA and category B projects in this para is hereby deleted”.
However, the order states, “It has been decided to consider allowing the projects / activities of modernization of existing project or activity not resulting in increase in pollution load and physical infrastructure like highways, aerial ropeways, Common Effluent Treatment Plants and Common Solid Waste Management Facility in such areas.”
Even as deciding to lift the moratorium on 10 industrial areas, including Ahmedabad, the MoEF has put forward a few conditions:
· The concerned state pollution control board (SPCB) should ensure that any new project /activity or any expansion or modernization of existing project or activity or any change in product mix is in line with the overall approved action plan of the concerned CPA.
· The chairman, SPCB, should submit a quarterly report on the implementation of the action plan of each CPA to the CPCB be reviewed by it.
· Monitoring in CPAs should be carried out by the SPCB through a third party on an annual basis for computing CEPI. The monitoring should be done during December-February and the report sent to CPCB by April. CPCB, in turn, would submit its report to MoEF.
· Monitoring in CPAs should be got done by CPCB through a third party on biennial basis for computing CEPI and report submitted to MoEF for taking an appropriate view.
“If at any time it comes to the notice of CPCB that action plan in any CPA is not being implemented properly or the CEPI index in CPA is showing an increasing trend, it will immediately bring the factual pOSition to the notice of MoEF and MoEF would consider taking an appropriate view in the matter which may include re-imposition of moratorium”, the order warns.

Industry protests the MoEF order

In a sharp reaction, the Ankaleshwar Industries Association president Vipul V Gajera called an urgent meeting of industrialists of Central Gujarat "in connection with extension of moratorium on critically-polluted Industrial cluster category for Ankleshwar-Panoli-Jhagadia Industrial cluster based on result of recent sampling by MoEF team." The meeting was held to protest against the "extension of moratorium on critically polluted industrial cluster based on the result declared recently of sampling done by the team of CPCB/MoEF". It was jointed arranged with Laghu Udyog Bharti, Bharuch, Panoli and Jhagadia Industries Associations, and among the participants included BJP MPs Mansukh Vasava and Bharatsinh Parmar, and BJP MLAs Chhatrasinh Mori, Dushiantbhai Patel and Arunsinh Rana.

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