In November 2016, people were pleasantly surprised to learn that three ‘critically polluted’ industrial areas in Gujarat had been declared as no longer so polluted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). These three were: Vapi, Vatva and Ankleswar. They had acquired the ‘critical’ tag in 2010 following a CPCB classification after a detailed study done in 2009-10, in collaboration with IIT-Delhi. The study had identified 88 highly polluted industrial clusters in 16 states and rated them on the basis of a Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI). Of these, 43 were designated ‘critical’ scoring over 70 on the index while the remaining 32 with scores between 60 and 70 were classified as ‘seriously polluted areas’. A moratorium on further investment in new units in these areas was put in place. The critical category
The number of critical clusters was the highest in Gujarat and UP at 6 each. Over the years, most of the critical clusters implemented action plans to reduce pollution in the areas and were able to reduce pollution. CPCB monitored each area and after its reports, moratoriums were lifted.
But Gujarat’s Vapi, Ankleswar and Vatva continued in the critical list till as late June 2016. And so, the moratorium continued.
But, in October 2016, monitoring by CPCB showed up a new situation: Vapi’s CEPI score has fallen from 85.3 (in 2013) to 68.2, Ankleswar’s from 80.9 to 68 and Vatva’s from 83.44 to 54.2! This was a dramatic improvement by all counts.
How did this happen? Astute researchers discovered that CPCB had changed the parameters by which CEPI was calculated in the last round of monitoring. The earlier system had included impact on people, impact on eco-geological features, risk to sensitive receptors and potentially affected population as four among total nine parameters that were assessed and given certain points. All these were added up to give a maximum score of 100.
In the new methodology, adopted after Modi took over as PM, these four were omitted and points were redistributed among remaining parameters. This was done because, according to CPCB, these four parameters were “subjective” and “debatable”, health studies need “huge funds” and they are “time consuming” and “debated by stake holders”.
And, presto! Vapi, Vatva and Ankleswar suddenly became “less polluted”. This paved the way for a supposed revival of investment in these three areas.
Independent, small studies in Vapi have found that while some half baked pollution control measures were instituted, in reality not much has changed, the common effluent treatment plant is not meeting prescribed norms, effluent is discharged in to the Kolak river at night, there is CCTV coverage and so on.
This is the way the ‘model’ govt. in Gujarat works, with help from the dynamic Prime Minister Modi at the Centre.