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Gujarat industry's puny understanding of pollution control: Plea to 'pardon' from laws

Vapi industries effluent dumping into Damanganga river
Counterview Desk
Taking strong exception to the Vapi Industries Association (VIA) letter dated May 18, 2020, addressed to the chairman, Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) seeking exemption environmental laws, senior state environmentalists have said the VIA demand is “ludicrous”, adding, it shows “audacity and righteousness” to “pollute the environs.”
“Such attitude raises many questions about the environmental concerns and the stance adopted by the concerned departments”, say Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Vadodara in a representation to senior officials of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and GPCB.
“We not only register our strongest objections against relaxations demanded by VIA, but also sternly demand that associations such as these be penalized for even making such requisitions, thereby wasting time and energy, such that no other organisations dare to request such exemptions”, the representation says.

Text:

We, as active environment activists, would like to bring to your attention the key concerns regarding the Vapi Industries Association’s (VIA) letter vide VIA/2020-21/0437, dated May 18, 2020, to the Chairman of GPCB, copy to Industries Commissioner of Gujarat and the Collector of Valsad District asking for exemption with respect to the implementation of the present environment laws and notifications regarding treatment and disposal of industrial effluent.
The audacity exhibited by Vapi Industries Association through the letter is something that responsible entities would even refrain from discussing verbally, leave alone putting it on paper. This impudence raises many concerns about the stance of concerned departments regarding environmental issues and pollution.
We are truly shocked that even after Order, dated February 22, 2017, of the Supreme Court in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 375 of 2012 (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anrs V/s Union of India & Ors) and National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, Delhi, Order, dated August 3, 2018, August 28, 2019 in Original Application No. 593 of 2017, (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anrs V/s Union of India & Ors), the VIA is able to openly demand de-facto not to implement these orders and further violate the present environment laws.
This raises fundamental questions regarding the present laissez-faire situation of the concerned authorities with regards to the implementation of the courts orders and the environment laws, whereby industrial association are transparently, boldly able to demand:
“As stated above there is a shortage of adequate skilled ETP personnel and that may cause non compliance in discharge norms. … also in respect of finally treated water, air emission and hazardous waste management norms, as well as in handling of plastic waste under Rule 9.”
An obvious question that arises is about the functioning of the Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) and Effluent Treatment Plants (ETP) of individual industries.
The letter further states:
“Presently if any sample of treated waste water, taken from the outlet of the Industries Members fail to meet the discharge norms for various parameters like COD etc. or any other lapses in comply with the environmental norms, the industries members are penalized heavily by giving closure to the defaulting units. This not only causes monetary losses to the unit but they also lose valuable customers and the supply chain gets destroyed.
"Considering the present market condition we propose that instead of directly giving closure to any defaulting units the authorities should levy heavy financial penalty to Industries defaulting for the first time. Any Industries defaulting for the second time may be punished with heavier penalty.
"Thereafter if any industries default for the third time, closure or any other harsh punishment may be slapped on them.”
 
This makes it very clear that it is not just about the CETP but also about the ETP’s of the individual industries.
Demand does not stop here but at the end VIA even makes it very clear:
“Lastly, as per the present norm any Industries Members setting up a new unit or going for expansion of the present unit within an industrial estate needs to do an Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) and submit the report to central authorities. In this regard we wish to inform you that EIA is an expensive process and cost not less than Rs. 5-7 lakh which is unaffordable for small units.
“In this regard we wish to state that the Industrial Estates like Vapi has already done the EIA for their CETP and the Industries Members are situated within 5 KMs radius of CETP only and discharging compulsorily in the underground drainage line of CETP only.
“We therefore propose to abolish the norm of getting individual EIA studies done for Industries situated within an Industrial Estate and discharging their treated waste water through CETP. Instead EIA report of the concerned CETP of that Industrial Estate should be submitted for establishment of new units or expansion of existing units of the concerned industrial estate.”

For justification, VIA states:
“We feel the above amendments and relaxation in the existing norms will give a strong opportunity to the Industries Members to rejuvenate themselves to turn around and start generating sustainable growth again which eventually contributes to the national GDP.”
These statements expose the Industry Association’s puny understanding about the natural resources and environment. It is quite shameful that such insincere and shallow industries are able to pressurise the government as well as the concerned authorities under the farce of economic hardship and growth.
It would be even more appalling if the government accepts their demand. For both, it is long overdue to realise and act upon the fact that economic growth achieved without environmental protection and restoration is short lived and very costly in the long run.
Demands such as these amounts to an attempt to water down our well thought out laws for the benefit of polluters. The accountability suggested in the letter is to be kept within fellow industrialists, all friends among themselves.
The report of their own CETP is to replace environment public hearing and Environment Impact Assessments (EIA) notification, 2006. If there is no labour to treat their industrial effluent, then where do they get labour to run their industry that generates effluent?
The surrounding villages and their helpless residents pay the heavy price in terms of health and livelihood options. The industries are supposed to be and upheld as job generators. They look good only on paper. The defaulting polluting industries make profits by degrading both, the environment and human dignity.
We not only register our strongest objections against relaxations demanded by the VIA, but also sternly demand that associations such as these be penalized for even making such requisitions, thereby wasting time and energy, such that no other organisations dare to request such exemptions.
We expect your prompt and positive response in the interest of life, livelihoods, and environment. No timely response from your side may prompt us to take further steps.

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