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GPCB: Zero Tolerance towards Pollution
A home to a number of domestic and international chemical companies, Gujarat has so far been leading the growth of the chemical and petrochemical industry in India. Chemical industry generates a lot of waste and thus causes a great threat to the environment, says Dr K U Mistry, Chairman, Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB). In an exlusive interview with CEW, he further explains how, over the years, the ever-increasing number of chemical units in Gujarat has significantly increased the responsibility of GPCB to check the hazardous wastes coming out of these units, and more.

Recently GPCB has issued closure notices to couple of units in the state for not following the environmental norms. When asked why such companies are reluctant to follow these norms, Mistry informs that some of these companies just do not want to spend money required for following the compliances. They give least priority to waste treatment and save the money needed for electricity, fuels, treatment of waste, plant, machinery, chemicals etc. the chairman further adds that difficulty of area or space required for treatment plants in small plots of industrial estates, non-availability of treatment technology or methods for certain type of effluents and weak or poor implementation by industries are some of the major reasons for their unwillingness to follow the environmental norms.

“They cannot take the law for granted, even if they find it unaffordable to incorporate proper waste treatment mechanism,” Mistry clarifies. There is a ‘need to protect the environment’ and to ensure this the board makes several efforts to educate the companies by organising different seminars and workshops along with frequent visits of industrial areas. “Further, we have a proper procedure of written inspection, where remarks to comply with suggested control measures are mentioned; we have opened environmental clinic for group compliance or specific pollution problem; we seek suggestions of cleaner production options along with CTE and CCA; we have implemented bar-code system to seal sample containers for the secrecy of result and tamperproof procedure; and we have installed CCTV cameras, on-line continuous monitoring equipment and better and useful online environmental computer system (XGN) to monitor black smoke, certain water and air parameters; and to ensure fast processing of many aspects, respectively” he adds.

The responsibilities of the board have certainly increased over the years. And, to cope up with increasing work, new 12 offices were started at different places in Gujarat during last three years with a view to make it easy to dispose all work within a shorter distance. New regulations and rules under the MSW (Municipal Solid Waste) and BMW (Bio Medical Waste) have established.

The state has witnessed an increase in STPs and solid waste collection & treatment sites, health care units and BMW treatment sites. Mistry says that as there are plenty of chemical units in Gujarat, pollution problem and its control measures are certainly major issues. GPCB has concentrated to solve this problem with high technical skill.

More and more engineering controls are suggested to industries, written remarks are given at the time of inspection, environmental clinic and help desk approaches have been started, action plans are devised to solve cluster problems, training for ETP and APCM operators conducted in all industrial estates, issuing of suggestions of cleaner production options started and general implementation is made strict.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

Over years many small scale chemical companies have emerged in the state. How does the board monitor or/and regulate small scale industries?
Because of GIDC infrastructure and promotion of small scale industries, several small and medium level chemical companies have come up in Gujarat. Such small units were ignoring guidelines in past but now, due to current strict policy of GPCB, this tendency has decreased and SMEs have also started to comply with the norms.

Does the board follow different approach when it comes to deal with chemical companies, which by nature are believed to be generate hazardous wastes?
Board`s approach towards chemical industries is stricter than its approach towards non-chemical industries, simply due to more pollution potential and noncompliance status of such industries. GPCB understand this fact and hence devised different mechanism to check on polluting chemical companies.

The board ensure to execute compulsory inspection of all such industries at least once in a year; seek written inspection remarks by local officers and further directions by HO officers; and execute frequent sampling and analysis and seek directions based on analysis reports.

We have also set up environmental clinic and help desk (Kiosk) to solve their difficulties during treatment process. GPCB encourage companies to join CETPs and TSDFs, and facilitate meeting with common incinerator facilities and co-processing cement mills for streamlining their treatment of hazardous and non-hazardous wastes.

How successful the ‘establishing CETPs’ has been in the state? To what extent the board has been able to reduce the toxicity and pollution levels?
If CETPs had not been established in the state, it would have been not possible to run thousands of small scale chemical industries. Therefore, concept of CEPTs has been successful in our state. Majority of industries run their plants as per norms. Results of CETP are spoiled only due to a few offenders discharging illegally. We deal with them strictly. CETPs have also made great efforts to improve their performance during last three years and their outlet results are improved as shown in the tables on previous page.

The stastatics in tables clearly indicates that major water and air pollutants level is reduced. Now due to insistence of online monitoring equipment and applicability of newly improved technology, CETPs performance will further improve.

What should be an ideal way to ensure companies respect the norms – strict actions against the wrongdoer or proper education?
Both the ways are necessary to deal with wrongdoer i.e. strict action as well as proper education. All wrongdoers do not change thier habbit by mere education, supervision or training.

Will you please share some statistics as to how many companies have received closure notice in this year - 2013 so far?
As a part of strict action to control pollution, closure directions have increased as shown in table 1. Impact of closer directions shows improvement in performance. Industries now think that non-compliance becomes costlier than compliance and therefore hundreds of such industries have invested huge amount in waste treatment infrastructure in their plants.

Will you like to give any message to the chemical companies mushrooming in Gujarat?
We cannot afford to harm the environment and it is instructed that chemical companies give top priority to environment protection activities. Quick compliance of all environmental laws and guidelines must be followed without fail and all directions, conditions and instructions from GPCB in the form of EC, CTE, CCA, authorization/registration, inspection etc, must be implemented to the tee.

We advise people to construct and run effectively appropriate ETPs & APCMs; implement action plans and undertaking necessary for them; segregate process streams and to run their plants as per treatability reports; submit all reports as required by law and GPCB regularly; reduce water consumption and to reuse treated waste water as far as possible; adopt and implement principle of 3-R (reduce, reuse and recover) and wasteless processing; and implement principles of green chemistry and cleaner production options as far as possible.

GPCB appreciate the efforts of the companies who are concerned about the environment and have already supporting the cause.