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CAG faults Bengal pollution control board

Indrani Dutta

KOLKATA, July 9

AT least 3,850 industries in West Bengal, including 525 major polluting units, were running without the consent of the West Bengal Pollution Control Board as on March 2001.

These include coalmines, tanneries, foundries, anodising and galvanising units, acid manufacturing units, ceramic units, brickfields, and asbestos product-making units, a recent study has revealed.

According to the Air Act of 1981, polluting units are required to take pollution control measures for treatment of emission before discharging it into the air and the WBPCB's consent was mandatory for any industry to continue its operations.

Polluting industries are categorised into three groups according to their discharge and emission possibilities. These are red (major), orange (medium) and green (minor). There is also the category of special red, under which falls the grossly polluting units.

However, WBPCB contributed to the State's environmental degradation by granting consent till April 2000 to 1,775 out of the 2,300 red category units, according to the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Pointing out that the performance of WBPCB in controlling air pollution was grossly ineffective, the report said that although the Board issued non-compliance notices to some of the grossly polluting units, there was little follow-up action and the industries continued to violate the norms.

The CAG passed comments on the testing standard itself of WBPCB saying that despite the fact that the Board could not utilise a Rs 4.5-lakh grant from the State Government in 1995-96 for procurement of laboratory equipment, it was often not in a position to assess the pollution status of units due to lack of testing facility.

Against total grants of Rs 45.23 crore received from the State Government between 1997 and 2001, the State Environment Department could spend only Rs 23.05 crore. The Board failed to utilise its own money too. Out of the Rs 53.36 crore which it received from issuing NOCs, consents and sale of forms between 1996 and 2001, only Rs 32.91 crore has been spent.

Turning to air pollution, the report said that while the transport sector contributed 50 per cent of the State's air pollution (with industry contributing 48 per cent), the State Government had not implemented any policy for phasing out old vehicles.

Regarding industrial emission, the report noted that emissions from industries, including thermal power stations, was the major source of air pollution. However, although Durgapur and Howrah were identified as critically polluting zones by the Central Pollution Control Board, WBPCB did not conduct any comprehensive study to assess the impact of pollution on environment and public health in these zones.

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