Ban on project approvals for eight critically polluted industrial areas2 min read . Updated: 18 Sep 2013, 11:10 PM IST
The ban is likely to hurt further corporate investment
New Delhi: The environment ministry will not provide project clearances in eight important but critically polluted industrial areas in the country, a ban that is likely to hurt further corporate investment.
The ministry had since January 2010 imposed a moratorium at 43 industrial clusters—including Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh, Indore in Madhya Pradesh, Ludhiana in Punjab, Panipat in Haryana and Vapi in Gujarat—that was later lifted in 26 locations in fiscal year ended March 2011.
It has now re-imposed the ban on approvals in eight such regions after the Central Pollution Control Board found in a study earlier this year that pollution in some of these industrial areas had reached “critical" levels.
The board found that of the 26 clusters where the ban was lifted, eight registered an alarming rise in the comprehensive environmental pollution index (CEPI).
“The CEPI scores 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," according to a 17 September ministry note that Mint has seen.
Environmental activists were supportive of the ministry’s action. “Now we have much better assessment of critically polluted areas," said Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general at Delhi-based not-for-profit Centre for Science and Environment. “Therefore, re-imposition on eight areas seems valid."
An industry association did not entirely agree with the ministry’s stance. A moratorium on project approvals in an entire area affects industries that have been taking steps to reduce pollution, according to Rita Roy Choudhury, head of renewable energy, climate change and environment at lobby group Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce, or Ficci.
“Companies which are taking measures to protect the environment should be exempted from such a moratorium," Roy Choudhury said. “This kind of moratorium de-recognises the efforts of the companies which are taking steps and, hence, becomes counter-productive."
Of the 17 clusters where the moratorium has not been lifted since 2010, seven areas—which include Ankleshwar and Vatva in Gujarat and Chandrapur in Maharashtra, Pali and Jodhpur in Rajasthan, Vellore in Tamil Nadu, and Najafgarh Drain Basin in Delhi—will still not get approvals for new industrial units because the pollution index in these locations have either shown an increasing trend or had not subsided.
The pollution control board found that pollution levels have gone down in the 10 remaining areas—which include Bhiwadi in Rajasthan, Dhanbad in Jharkhand, Manali in Tamil Nadu, Ahmedabad in Gujarat, Korba in Chhattisgarh, Asansol, Haldia and Howrah in West Bengal, Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh and Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh.
“In view of the re-assessment of CEPI score and taking into consideration that action plans for improving environment quality take time to yield results, it has been decided to lift the moratorium on consideration of projects for environmental clearance in respect of projects to be located in the above mentioned 10 clusters/areas," a 17 September note said.
However, the ministry has imposed certain conditions on these 10 areas, including clearance by state pollution control boards to ensure any new project or expansion or modernization is in line with the approved action plan of the concerned area.