Facing a crackdown: Up to 69 industrial clusters in India face indefinite shutdown unless state governments can devise plans to limit their share of local pollution| Image: LiveMint

69 polluting industrial areas face closure, asked to pay compensation for the past 5 years

The National Green Tribunal (NGT), India’s green court, has given three months to central and state pollution control boards to shut down 69 Polluted Industrial Areas (PIAs) across the country. The culprits will also have to compensate for the past five years under the Polluter Pays principle. The court said there were a total of 88 PIAs identified in 2009, which were further classified into Critically Polluted Areas (CPAs), Severely Polluted Areas (SPAs) and Other Polluted Areas (OPAs) based on their Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI) scores. Making action plans should not stop the crackdown against polluters, as continuing polluting activity is a criminal offence, NGT said. 

Villages near Mumbai choking on emissions, Rajasthan stone crushers probe continues

Villages on the outskirts of Mumbai are battling industrial emissions of Volatile Organic Compounds, India’s green court (NGT) said, while ordering the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to assess the damage done to the environment and health and calculate the correct compensation required to be paid by the polluters. The villages of Ambapada and Mahul near Mumbai are bearing the brunt of polluting logistic services of transport and storage of oil, gas and hazardous chemicals, as well as emissions released by oil companies.

In Rajasthan, the NGT has allowed one more month to a panel of doctors to file a report on the damage done to the health of  villagers by stone crushing units in the four villages of Koliya, Naka ke Dhani, Nozalo ke Dhani and Bandolai ke Dhani. Earlier, the state authorities, conducted the study only in the village of Koliya, after which the green court re-ordered the health probe under a fresh panel of doctors.

Haryana moves top court to get builder access to Aravalli forest

India’s battle against air pollution got tougher last week after the Haryana government moved Supreme Court, challenging the green court’s decision to declare a 52-acre plot in the Aravallis in Faridabad a “deemed forest”. In 2017, 7,000 trees were felled in the Aravallis for a real estate project by Bharti Land Limited. The Haryana government says the area has been wrongly declared a forest. Earlier, the Supreme Court had warned Haryana “will be in trouble” if it did “anything” with the Aravalli hills.

In a separate case, Haryana’s carpet manufacturers came under the scanner of central and state pollution monitors who will jointly probe manufacturing units in Haryana’s Rewari district. Carpet manufacturers Uni Product and Golden Tex have been allegedly producing synthetic, waste, which is creating pollution on being burnt. The agencies have a month to file an action-taken report in the case.

Delhi govt told to deposit ₹25 crore over failure to curb polluting industries

Expressing dissatisfaction with the steps taken by the Delhi government to curb air pollution in the national capital, the NGT reiterated its directive from December 2018 for the government to deposit a “performance guarantee” of 25 Crore with the court. The green court reissued the directive while noting that the government failed to stop the plastic and waste burning by unauthorised units near Mundka and Neelwal villages even four years after complaints were registered.

The court also said Delhi authorities had identified 30,000 polluting vehicles, of which only 150 were impounded and over Rs6 lakh was recovered in fines. The green court said the money recovered on Polluter Pays basis has to match the damage caused, and should be enough to deter offenders from repeating the offence instead of profiting from it. 

China mulls stricter emission norms for steel mills, tightens screws on polluting units

Amidst growing unhappiness over large-scale industrial shut-downs, China plans to make its emission assessment on steel mills much stricter when granting exemptions from existing curbs this winter. Industrial associations will carry out the assessments to avoid fraud in the emission upgrading process. As a rule, companies that attain ultra-low emissions are entitled to exemption from or are allowed to implement a minimum level of production cuts on smog days. While those who emit more will face the highest level of production restrictions. China’s steel output reached a record high this year, raising air pollution concerns.

Earlier this week, authorities detained the boss of The Tangyin Steel Plant in Tangshan city on pollution charges after he failed to implement the mandated 50% cut in production. Tangshan, China’s biggest steel producing city, said in June that it would impose output restrictions on local steel firms until August in order to curb smog.

Smoky kitchens: Give villagers seasonal incentives to use free cylinders, says study

The government must “explicitly incentivise regular LPG use” among villagers through seasonal vouchers during low-income months to achieve its goal of smoke-free kitchens in rural India, that’s the recommendation of the latest research published in Nature Energy. India’s scheme of free LPG cylinders to rural women, the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) launched in 2016, came under scanner of the researchers who said the PMUY is an “unparalleled success”, in providing access to LPG cylinders, but if it wants villagers to stop using firewood and charcoal it has to incentivise regular LPG use among the beneficiaries of PMUY, as well as the general rural population, as their average use is still very low across rural India.

Billions of toxic iron-rich particles lodged in the hearts of city dwellers: study

Air pollution in cities can damage the critical pumping heart muscles of children as young as three years old, says the latest study. The research by Lancaster University scientists says the hearts of city dwellers carry billions of toxic iron-rich particles, produced by vehicles and industry. The study revealed that the nanoparticles from polluted air had access to both heart and brain and they were linked with heart disease and Alzheimer’s-like damage.

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