July 17, 2011
New Delhi: State governments furnished misleading information on critically polluted industrial areas to let the regions off an environment ministry moratorium list, an investigation by the Centre for Science and environment (CSE) has revealed.
The environmental group, which evaluated the pollution status in the industrial hubs of Vapi, Gujarat and Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu, found that the pollution levels in both the areas exceeded the permissible norm, many times over.
Both Vapi and Cuddalore along with 21 other critically polluted areas across the country were removed by the environment ministry from its moratorium list since October 2010. This means these areas will now be able to go ahead with new projects and expansions.
The regions were let off the hook after the respective state pollution control boards submitted an action plan on how they plan to deal with the menace of pollution.
However, analysis by CSE shows that the pollution mitigation plan submitted by Vapi and Cuddalore are misleading and devoid of certain vital measures.
The tests conducted by CSE in April this year at Vapi show the presence of heavy metals like mercury and poisonous compounds like arsenic and cyanide. Nevertheless, the action plan makes no mention of any study of the existing surface water quality or its impact on people and ecology.
Similarly, the Cuddalore action plan also gives a miss to the presence of major air pollutants such as benzene, volcanic organic compounds, visible impact of pollution on groundwater and surface water and their impact on people in the neighbouring villages.
The investigation proves that the environment ministry was in a hurry to remove the critically polluted tag at Vapi and Cuddalore. Instead of applying a strict monitoring regime to assess pollution, it relied on promises made on paper to lift the moratorium. The ministry did not even carefully assess the projections made by the state pollution control boards, which would have nailed the lies in the mitigation action plans, the environmental group alleged.