Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Swachh Bharat Mission on October 2, 2014 and in his message on his website, he says, “A clean India is the best tribute we can pay to Bapu when we celebrate his 150th birth anniversary in 2019. […] Today, I appeal to everyone, particularly political and religious leadership, mayors, sarpanchs and captains of industry to plan and wholeheartedly engage in the task of cleaning your homes, work places, villages, cities and surroundings.” I want to remind Modi that earlier as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, he had launched similar campaign Nirmal Gujarat – 2007′ and made tall claims during that campaign. But reality is best seen in Ahmedabad at illegal solid waste dumping site at Gyaspur-Pirana – a waste mountain near Sabarmati River adjacent to the main road.
Modi should know the basic facts as revealed in the ‘Report of the Task Force on Waste to Energy’ dated 12 May 2014 by the Planning Commission of India. This report states “As per Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) report 2012-13 municipal areas in the country generate 1,33,760 metric tonnes per day of MSW, of which only 91,152 TPD waste is collected and 25,884 TPD treated.”
The report further states “Further, if the current 62 million tonnes annual generation of MSW continues to be dumped without treatment; it will need 3,40,000 cubic meter of landfill space everyday (1240 hectare per year). Considering the projected waste generation of 165 million tonnes by 2031, the requirement of land for setting up landfill for 20 years (considering 10 meter high waste pile) could be as high as 66 thousand hectares of precious land, which our country cannot afford to waste.”
Things are not as simple as Modi say. This waste generation figure covers only 31.15% population of India. Considering the waste generation figures of all of India, these figures will be even more daunting. The Planning Commission (which Modi wishes to abolish) of India’s report further states, “A study, of the status of implementation of the MSW Rules 2000 by the mandated deadline by the states, was carried out in class 1 cities of the country. It revealed that in 128 cities except for street sweeping and transportation, compliance was less than 50% and in respect of disposal compliance was a dismal 1.4 %.”
What about the government’s major role in policy making for the reduction of waste and implementation of the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules 2000? Modi’s track record in the implementation of these rules in the Gujarat is worst.
The consistent follow-up by the pollution-affected people, people’s organisations and NGOs regarding the increasing pollution levels in the industrial areas of India forced the CPCB and the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) in 1989 to initiate the process of indexing the critically polluted areas. At that time 24 industrial areas, including Vapi, Ankleshwar, Ludhiana, were declared ‘critically polluted’.
In 2009 the CPCB and IIT-Delhi, in consistence with the demands of the people’s organisation’s working on environmental issues decided to use a new method of ‘indexing the pollution levels’ of these areas, which is now known as the ‘Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index’ (CEPI). The CEPI includes air, water, land pollution and health risks to the people living in the area.
However, our demand has been to include the health of the workers, productivity of land and quality of food / agriculture produce in the index since the presence of high levels of chemicals and heavy metals in food produce has severe health implications. This is affecting not only people living around the industrial area but anyone consuming it – hence not restricting the impact to the particular industrial area.
In December 2009 the CEPI of 88 polluted industrial clusters was measured; it was then that the CPCB and the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) of Government of India were forced to declare 43 of those as ‘critically polluted clusters’ and another 32 industrial areas as ‘severely polluted clusters’. Following this study the MoEF on January 13, 2010 was forced to issue a moratorium (prohibition on opening new industries and/or increasing the production capacity of the existing industries) on the 43 critically polluted areas.
Similar reports were prepared by CPCB in 2011 and 2013, but these reports were completely ignored by past government and also by the Modi government.
As the very first step after assuming power as the Prime Minister, instead of improving the environment of these 88 industrial clusters and taking the remedial measure in these area for clean up after moving to the Capital, the Modi government started lifting the moratorium of industrial cluster like Ghaziabad (UP), Indore (M.P.), Jharsuguda (Orissa), Ludhiana (Punjab), Panipat (Haryana), Patancheru – Bollaram (A.P.), Singrauli (UP & MP) and Vapi (Gujarat) as a first order of business on June 10, 2014.
Vapi’s track records demand more ‘stringent action’ against the polluting industries of Vapi and concerned officers of the GPCB, and definitely not lifting of moratorium from Vapi. The murky politics and economics of ‘GDP growth’ continue to prevail over the cause of ‘life and livelihood’ of ordinary people and ‘environment & conservation.
In 2009, the Ankleswar’s industrial area, with 88.50 CEPI, topped the list of ‘critically polluted areas’ of India. In 2011 and 2013, Vapi industrial area, with CEPI of 85.31, topped this list. Thus Gujarat is able to top in 2009 in ‘critically polluted areas’ in India and continues to maintain its position in 2011 and 2013.
The Government of Gujarat deliberately ignored to comment or engages ever on these issues. Why is Modi not considering to clean up of these industrial clusters of India? Does he plan to clean up this critically and severely polluted industrial clusters?
*Senior environmental activist. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, +91-265-2320399