Gujarat’s top environmental group Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) has sharply criticized the Gujarat Pollution Control Board’s (GPCB’s) “on-serious, casual letter” dated September 5, which allegedly suggests that the top state state agency does not favour taking any action Central Gujarat’s effluent treatment plant, Vadodara Enviro Channel Ltd (VECL).
Sample taken from the spot where channel "releases" effluents
In a letter to senior Government of India and Gujarat government officials, with copies to the Prime Minister and the state chief minister as also concerned citizens, PSS in its letter signed by Rohit Prajapati and Krishna Kant insist not to renew Consolidated Consent and Authorization (CC&A) order dated January 6, 2015, and implement the closure order dated December 13, 2018 of GPCB under section 33A of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
It is utterly shocking that Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) letter, dated September 5, 2019, maintains complete silence on the principle and fundamental issue that, "Now, there is no dispute among concerned authorities, industries, and VECL that at ‘J Point’ of Effluent Channel of VECL the effluent is consistently not able to meet the prescribed GPCB norms”, mentioned in all our letter since 2000.
Surprisingly same letter also states, “Thus Board is taking action against as and when any industry (is) found not complying (with) the norms.” We would like to again put on record that the VECL is also an industry, in the business of safely conveying treated industrial effluents but is not able to meet the prescribed norms since its inception. We request GPCB to clarify this in writing. A copy of the letter is attached herewith.
Even the monsoon rains on August 2 and 3, 2019 were also able to reveal and expose that leakage of pipeline in the last stretch of ECP. The VECL’s carelessness has led to filling up of two ponds of Nodhana Village with industrial effluent. Industrial effluent also entered into agriculture land of Uber, Valipur, Nodhana, Samoj, and Sarod villages.
The Vadodara Enviro Channel Limited (VECL) knowingly and openly decided not to respect the Environment Laws of India and Order, dated February 22, 2017, of the Supreme Court in Writ Petition (Civil) No 375 of 2012 (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anrs V/s Union of India & Ors) and National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, Delhi, Order, dated August 3, 2018 and February 19, 2019, in the Original Application No 593 of 2017, (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anrs V/s Union of India & Ors).
We are extremely disturbed that the Chief Secretary, Gujarat State; and the Chairman & Member Secretary of the GPCB are openly allowing the VECL to consistently and admittedly violate the environment laws of the land.
They are also turning a blind eye to the known and admitted violation of the Order, dated February 22, 2017, of the Supreme Court in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 375 of 2012 (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anrs V/s Union of India & Ors) and National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, Delhi Order, dated 03.08.2018 and 19.02.2019, in Original Application No. 593 of 2017, (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anrs V/s Union of India & Ors). These amount to Contempt of the Supreme Court Order and exemplary punishment needs to be ordered by the concerned authorities.
|A spot where effluent is oozing out of the pipeline|
There have been several such letters written by PSS and Farmers’ Action Group (FAG) and repeated investigations conducted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), and various agencies appointed by the concerned authorities.
These efforts and track record clearly demonstrates that the groundwater of the villages, ponds, and agricultural areas along and around the ECP are critically contaminated and need immediate intervention by the concerned authorities to stop further pollution of any kind.
They must also demarcate and analyze the pollution-affected areas scientifically and then implement well-devised, short-term and long-term plans to completely remediate the surface water and land as well as the groundwater of the affected area.
Since the year 2000, we have been continuously communicating about the above issues and about the non-compliance of Effluent Channel Project (ECP) of Vadodara Enviro Channel Limited, with the concerned authorities. There has been no response from the authorities in terms of definitive actions on the ground. Our continuous appeals have been responded with undeniable display of their nonchalance and lack of commitment to the environment and law of the land.
The Consolidated Consent and Authorization (CC&A), dated January 6, 2015, of VECL clearly mentions: “VECL have only one outlet for the discharge of its effluent and no effluent shall be discharged without requisite treatment & without meeting with the GPCB norms.”
There are many more such terms and conditions mentioned in the said CC&A but the concerned authorities have failed to look into the compliance of these crucial terms and conditions of CC&A.
Neither the GPCB nor the industrialists have denied that the groundwater is severely contaminated, that the contamination is spreading in different areas, and it has reached irreversible / irreparable levels because of incessant industrial activities.
There are number farmers who had been practicing organic farming but because of the groundwater pollution, they are no longer considered organic. Affected farmers with small landholding and villagers often have no choice but to use this contaminated water for farming and their livelihood, including in their own households, and for their cows and buffaloes.
The farmers who are affected by groundwater contamination and pollution have not been compensated in terms of money or in kind. This is despite the fact that nobody disputes the fact that the problem of contamination of groundwater and air pollution is because of the polluting industries located around the villages and areas vis-à-vis the ECP.
Alarming that industries located in Central Gujarat are releasing untreated effluents, which has grave consequences, and may force government to declare chemical emergencyPolluters need to pay. Industries need to be categorized as polluters. There are too many loopholes for polluters to get away from responsibility to pay. Polluters need to pay if it is externalized from their respective compounds. There has to be a system to assess and pay the affected in time.
There must be a serious and concerted effort made to change the way we process and manufacture industrial products. A mid-course correction towards more ecologically and socially responsible practices must be studied and adapted for a new kind of regenerative economy, healthier ecosystems, and happier and productive people.
As far as industrial clusters around ECP are concerned, they are located in the vegetable basket of Gujarat, on fertile land, which is prima facie contradictory and illegal. Majority of the industries located in this cluster do not even have the required buffer zone as per the stipulated condition in the environmental clearance.
The main purpose of the buffer zone is to avert the effect of negative impact of pollution on the surrounding rural residential and agricultural areas. No action has been taken against these defaulting industries even after repeated letters from us about the violations.
Keeping in mind the above stated alarming facts and undisputed realities even accepted by CPCB, GPCB, Vadodara Enviro Channel Limited, and the industries located in this area, we can surely declare this grave situation as a major chemical emergency. In order to reduce further harm to the people and the environment, we demand that:
- Concerned authorities should not renew Consolidated Consent and Authorization (CC&A) dated January 6, 2015 of Vadodara Enviro Channel Ltd.
- Concerned authorities should immediately implement the Closure Order dated December 13, 2018 of GPCB under section 33A of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
- File criminal cases against VECL and defaulting polluting industries of ECP Industrial Cluster. The cases may please be heard in a Special Court on day-to-day basis.
If authorities fail to do so, it will convey a wrong message to all the polluting industries that the concerned authorities are not serious about implementing the Supreme Court order dated February 22, 2017 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 375 of 2012.
We expect your prompt and positive response in the interest of life, livelihoods, and the environment. If this doesn’t happen, we may take action as may be advised.
Courtesy: Counter View