Well, it’s about time I guess. Gujarat has got away with flouting international norms on pollution, emissions (and even in the early years of is “boom” , labour conditions) for long enough. Now, established as the prime ceramics hub of the Asian continent outside Southern China, it has taken the bull by the horns, so to speak, and is opting to considerably clean up its act.
We have all read in recent months how the NGT has clamped down on emissions by placing more stringent requirements on the region’s fuel consumption, and there is a great deal of development underway in that regard…finally!
For many, it cannot come a moment too soon. Even as the work gets underway to clean up the fuel supply, a committee appointed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has identified 12 sites contaminated from illegal dumping of coal tar-bearing gasifier wastewater in Morbi.
The Red / brown wastewater was found discharged in some low-lying areas and abandoned mines, according to a report by the panel. The sites were covered with white slurry from tile polishing, indicating to a potential cover-up.
“It is a case of negligence towards natural resource, common man’s need and environment by the gasifier operators and ceramic producers,” according to the report.
On March 6 a three-judge NGT bench directed the closure of coal gasifiers and units operating on them in the town. It asked the Gujarat State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) to immediately start prosecuting violating industries and recover compensation for heavily polluting the air.
To oversee the execution of the order, the tribunal appointed an oversight committee headed by Just (retd) BC Patel, former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court and former Judge of Gujarat High Court.
The NGT asked a committee including representatives of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), GPCB and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to assess the damage, costs associated with it and suggest a resoration plan.
The GPCB visited 952 industries in the area from March 13-31. Gasifiers were found in 568 ceramic industries. Together, they would have discharged an estimated 2160 cubic metre (m3) wastewater and 1176 tonnes coal tar in their premises. All stored condensate wastewater needs to be disposed scientifically to Common Hazardous Waste Treatment, Storage, and Disposal Facility (CHW-TSDF). Coal tar should be forwarded to cement and silicate industries.
The committee also found large quantities of solid waste — polished waste, broken tiles, sanitary waste, abrasion dust, spray dryer HAG ash, etc — haphazardly dumped all over Morbi, including Matel Road, Sartanpur Road, Makansar Road, Jambudiya, Rafaleshwar, Lalpar, Lakhadhirpur Road, Ghutu Road, Pipali Road, Unchimadala, Kandla Port Bypass Road.
Let’s hope this move towards a brighter, cleaner ceramics manufacturing hub is not just skin-deep…and that companies are not allowed to simply “appear” to be doing the right thing…