By Mahesh Pandya*
While the Government is trying to establish Gujarat as a Model state at national and international level, it is really necessary to assess Gujarat’s environmental health. Since 2003, Gujarat has been hosting Vibrant Summit, which encourages industries and investors to invest in the state. Prime Minister’s “Make in India” Campaign also show case Gujarat as an Industrial hub. The question here is, with the increasing industrialization, will Gujarat be able to cope up with the environmental challenges? Is there enough land and water to satisfy these needs? How much pollution has already been done to the environment by this increased industrialization and how much will further be done in the future?
1) Air Pollution:
On 6th April 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated 10 ambient air monitoring stations throughout the nation to measure air pollution. The results are put in the public domain to enhance public awareness about the quality of air. In Gujarat, the monitoring station selected was Maninagar (an area of Ahmedabad). However, there have been no updates of this station since November 2015 and the station possibly seems inactive since then.
2) Municipal Solid Waste Management:
According to CAG Report of 2012 as well as recent report of 2015, solid waste has not been properly managed in any of the cities in Gujarat. Even after NGT’s judgment on Rajkot and Surat solid waste disposal sites, the Government shows no improvement in planning and management of MSW. The waste mountain of Ahmedabad’s Pirana has also attracted people’s attention and local people have taken shelter under Court.
3) TSDF Sites:
CAG has observed that the sites built for the management of hazardous solid waste of industries are not working according to their standards. In Vapi and Surat, such sites have been broken and it has caused a great damage. (Tons of toxic waste flooded into river and ocean.)
4) Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP):
Gujarat has highest no. of CETPs, but sadly, none of the plants are working as per the standards and so called treated effluents are being discharged into various Khadis, river, and ocean resulting in water contamination. Despite CAG’s heavy criticism and financial assistance of Rs. 212 cr. in two years, there is no improvement.
5) Climate Change Department:
In 2009, Government has declared with pride that Gujarat is the first state in Asia which has a separate department for Climate Change. However, still we cannot see any implementation. In true sense, this department has been active only since 2 years. The website of the Department was also developed only last month, that too, after several RTI’s filed by Paryavaran Mitra and after the order given by Chief Information Commissioner (CIC). Gujarat is last to give its Action Plan which was released in May 2015. Recently, two floods hit Gujarat (Banaskantha and Amreli), there was no role of this Department. Action Plan is silent regarding Gujarat’s heat and Gujarat’s draught.
6) River Pollution:
According to report released by Central Pollution Control Board, many rivers of Gujarat, including Sabarmati, are polluted. The then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Mr. Narendra Modi had stated at that time that Sabarmati is a clean river!
7) Tree-cutting Policy:
In the name of development, trees were being cut on large scale by the Government. Paryavaran Mitra had filed a petition in High Court and Court had given orders to make a guideline regarding tree-cutting. However, Government doesn’t seem interested. Five years ago, Ahmedabad had won Limca Award by planting 6 lakh plants in a single day. Where are those plants? Banaskantha has also the record of planting 12 lakh plants in a single day. However, they have somehow disappeared!
8) Environmental Management:
Some farmers of Sabarkantha district had gone to High Court to present their problem of loss due to pollution. High Court directed Collector and Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) to make a Committee whose sole work is to measure out the loss and compensation, so that the farmers get the compensation easily. Due to neglected behaviour of Government, farmers and affected people had to go to National Green Tribunal (NGT). GPCB should use the money acquired through Bank Guarantee in this purpose.
Thus, Government of Gujarat as well as India should take serious steps to reduce pollution.
*Director, Paryavaran Mitra, Ahmedabad