Gujarat generates largest share of hazardous waste in India, requires more land for waste disposal to prevent land degradation

Pirana landfill site in Ahmedabad
Pirana landfill site in Ahmedabad

Excerpts from the Gujarat Ecology Commission report, “State of Land Resources in Gujarat” prepared in association with the Institute of Rural Management, Anand:  

Having achieved tremendous growth in the industrial sector Gujarat has emerged as one of the leading industrialised states of India. The state has attracted the highest Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and is now the most favoured industrial investment destination of the country. FDI accounts for 22 percent of the country’s investment flow and Gujarat happens to lead FDI investments in India. Economic activity in Gujarat is based on a strong foundation provided by the manufacturing sector. The state has shifted its industrial policy from cluster and industrial estates-based industries to Special Economic Zones (SEZs). It has now shifted towards Industrial Regions and Special Investment Regions (SIRs) expanding the state’s vision to become the largest business hub in Asia and global investment destination.

Gujarat has now become the fastest-growing state in terms of industrial development, with chemical, petrochemical, drugs and pharmaceuticals, textiles, pesticide and fertiliser industries dominating. All these have an impact on natural resources including land and water. Any developmental activity is bound to put pressure on resources if it is not planned and carried out in a judicious manner. With increased industrial development there is a need for scientific disposal of waste and management of natural resources in the light of environmental sustainability and sustainable development.

Hazardous waste poses a substantial threat to public health and the environment. Characteristic hazardous wastes are materials that are known or tested to exhibit ignitibility, reactivity, corrosivity, and toxicity. The major industrial sectors in the state produce large quantities of hazardous waste. The state has been coping with the increasing generation of hazardous waste by implementing a stringent law and policy and by creating numerous scientifically engineered disposal sites. Yet there have been some instances of sites being contaminated due to the illegal dumping of hazardous wastes.

Gujarat has 7,751 hazardous waste generating units contributing to 28.76 percent of the total hazardous waste generation of India, which is the highest in the country. The state has been generating major quantities of waste which is land disposable hazardous waste. The land disposable hazardous waste generation in the state accounts for 61.75 percent, while incinerable and recyclable waste together accounts for 38.25 percent. The contributions of various states with respect to the country’s total land disposable hazardous waste generation amounts to 40.58 percent while 36.75 percent comprises incinerable and remaining recyclable waste.

The major hotspots of waste generation may be found in the Bharuch and Ahmadabad districts. They account for 46 percent of the total amount of industrial hazardous waste generated in Gujarat. An inventory prepared by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) reveals that the total land disposable hazardous waste generation in the state stands at 11,07,128 tonnes per annum (TPA) while the total treatment stabilisation disposal facilities (TSDF) capacity is at 4,47,401 TPA. It shows that TSDF capacity has a deficit of 6,59,727 TPA. Immediate attention is called for to lower this gap to reduce environmental and land degradation.

The huge amount of hazardous waste generated by industries would require land for its disposal through scientific channels. Industrial hazardous waste contains certain heavy metals as well asphyto-toxic organic compounds among other substances. When discharged on land, even at relatively low levels can affect the soil health, soil quality, and productivity of land. Industries also generate non-hazardous (high volume-low hazard) wastes that are mostly discarded over open, low lying land. This can degrade both land quality and the aesthetic value of the place. The size of land required to dispose the waste in an engineered landfill, assuming the average density of waste to be around 1.2 tonnes/m3 and the depth of the landfill 4 meter, would be around 108 ha every year. This can be applied to future waste projections to arrive at future land requirements for the disposal of hazardous waste. A state like Gujarat which generates the largest share of hazardous waste in the country, would require more land for waste disposal in order to prevent high rate of land degradation.

The rapid industrial growth in the state has created tremendous pressure on land resources which are required to be converted into non-agricultural land, particularly in the fringe areas of the urban centres and in the neighbourhood of industrial estates. Another dimension is the industrial pollution. The toxic effluents from industries are causing damage to crops and neighbouring land resources. Tenth Five Year Plan of the Government of India pointed out that relatively more industrialised states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh face problems relating to toxic and hazardous wastes which include sludge contaminated with heavy metals, wastes from paints, dyes and organic chemical units and highly acidic and alkaline wastes.

Industries in Gujarat have been classified into Red, Orange and Green, based on the total quantity and characteristics of different types of hazardous wastes generated, and type of production in industrial units.

These are:

land2 land3 land1• Red- highly polluting industries

• Orange- moderately polluting industries

• Green – non polluting industries

There are 16,770 (red category) industrial units registered under highly polluting industry category in Gujarat, which has increased by more than three times during 2006 and 2012. Similarly the Orange category industrial units have also increased three fold during the same period. Green category of industries has increased from merely 828 units in 2006-07 to 4654 units in 2011-12 indicating more than five times increase in a period of five years duration, showing a positive sign of green development trajectory.

Examples of industrial pollution are observed along the 400 km stretch between Ahmadabad in Central Gujarat to Vapi in the southern part of the state, though efforts are being made to reduced pollution. This area is dotted with hundreds of small and medium factories that manufacture chemicals, dyes, paints, fertilisers, plastic, pulp, and paper. Untreated waste from these factories is the main cause for the pollution of air, water, farmland in the vicinity of these industrial units. The Gujarat Pollution Control Board has taken up many initiatives to treat effluents from industries. Six areas namely – Ankleshwar, Vapi, Ahmadabad, Vatva, Bhavnagar and Junagadh are identified as critically polluted. Ankleshwar, a hub of chemical industries, is located on the Narmada estuary.

Gujarat’s 1600 km long coastline provides a great opportunity for port-based development planning along the coastline but that also means a greater risk to the ecosystems along the cost. In Nandesari village of Vadodara district, almost 220 hectares of fertile agricultural land has been converted into a chemical industrial estate. The coastal regions of Kutch and Saurashtra have witnessed the establishment of mega cement plants and giant refineries which may have implications for the protected marine national park in the Gulf of Kutch. Although, Gujarat Industrial Policy warrants strict implementation of pollution control and environmental protection measures for safeguarding nature and natural resources, there is a need for greater emphasis on the internalisation of the adverse impacts of industrial development.

A report of environmental impact assessment (EIA) on industrial activity in Vapi-Vadodara industrial corridor found that out of the 16 talukas chronically affected by heavy metal contamination of groundwater, 12 talukas fall in this region of the state. The changing economy has also shown indirect impacts on the environmental conditions and had also brought about changes in the socio-economic profile and the settlement patterns in the belt.

Industrial agglomerations are likely to have implications on water security if sustainable uses of water resources are not practiced to satisfy the needs of both industry and population supporting these industries. There are three kinds of potential impacts that SEZ/ SIR can have on access to water for the people in the concerned area: i) Diversion of water for various purposes within the area can lead to the water insecurity; ii) Effluents released from the area due to industrial activity can have severe impact on water bodies present in the area if treatment plants are not in place; iii) Conversion of land to SEZ would mean destruction of groundwater recharge systems.

Industrialisation could also have a impacts on fishing communities of the coastal region. The entire coast of Gujarat has been either industrialised which, is a mixed bag in terms of new employment opportunities for the local communities with pitfalls of adverse impacts on their traditional vocation of fishing. Industrial activity on the coast blocks the access of fishermen to the sea. Another dimension is the pollution of sea waters which has the potential to affect the fishing community of the state adversely. It may lead to a decrease in fish catch.

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