Despite the implementation of stringent measures to reduce pollution in these areas,two industrial clusters around Mumbai-Tarapur and Dombivali are now among the top 10 most polluted industrial clusters in the country even as two other industrial towns of Maharashtra have become more polluted since 2009.
Tarapur has moved from number 36 to nine on the list of 43 critically polluted industrial clusters of the country while Dombivali is now 10th instead of 14th according to a recently released interim assessment of Comprehensive Environment Pollution Index (CEPI) done by the Central Pollution Control Board(CPCB) in 2011. Navi Mumbai and Aurangabad too have registered an increase in pollution to be 15th and 22nd on the list as opposed to 17th and 30th in 2009. Chandrapur is the only cluster where pollution has reduced,although marginally.
The CPCB had developed the concept of CEPI with IIT Delhi and other academic and environmental institutions and came up with a first ever such list in 2009. CEPI is a method of measuring environmental quality on the basis of land,air and water pollution and an increasing value indicates severe effects on environment and health hazards for the population. The same five industrial clusters were on the list in 2009 and recorded of a possible 100 a score of 70,which is considered critically polluted.
Tarapur,an industrial town 45 kilometres north of Virar,saw the highest jump in pollution levels of the five,recording a CEPI value of 85.24,up from 72.01 in 2009 and comparable to the most polluted on the list,Vapis 90.75.
Of Tarapurs total area of around 1034 hectares,around 853 hectares is covered by industries 74 of which are highly polluting industries such as dyes and drugs and pharmaceuticals. Dombivali,too,saw a rise in its CEPI,going up to 85.21 from 78.41 in 2009 while Navi Mumbai,with around 2200 industrial units with extremely toxic sectors such as manufacture of chemicals,dyes,pesticides and petrochemicals,went up to 78.51 from 73.77. Interestingly,the pollution levels in these clusters increased despite the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) putting a moratorium on expansion in all these five clusters in January 2010. Only after the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board(MPCB) submitted action plans for abatement of pollution in these areas and the ministry was satisfied with some progress made in implementation,was the ban lifted from all except Chandrapur by February 2011.
Officials from the MPCB said both short and long-term measures are in place and concrete steps have been taken to reduce pollution but the process will take time. We are surpised that our pollution levels are up because we have seen an improvement in levels since last year, said NH Shivangi,regional officer of Thane region,which includes Tarapur. We are taking strict action against erring industries and have served closure notices to 14-15 industries and show cause notices to others. After the ban,we decided on a zero discharge policy for industries where they cannot discharge their treated effluents outside their premises or in the Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP). The problem is that the CETP is overloaded and the process for a new one to be provided has begun. We are doing everything we can and are confident that once the short and long term measures are fully implemented,the pollution levels will come down, he said.
We have asked the industries to change their procedures to reduce the quantity and concentration of effluent,overhaul their air control systems to reduce emission and asked the CETP to reuse and recycle effluents. Pipe gas is also being made available to industries so that furnace oil or diesel,which cause air pollution are not used, said B B Nimbarte,regional officer,Navi Mumbai,MPCB.