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Moratorium on new industries in Coimbatore lifted

29 October 2010

R Vasundara
TIMES OF INDIA

Chennai: The Union environment and forests ministry has lifted the moratorium on new industrial projects in five critically-polluted industrial clusters in the country, including Coimbatore, Vapi (Gujarat), Patancheru-Bollaram (Andhra Pradesh), Tarapur (Maharashtra) and Mandi-Govindgarh (Punjab). The action followed the submission of action plans by the state pollution control boards to monitor and keep in check the pollution levels in these clusters. At the same time, the ministry has also extended the moratorium on the remaining 38 clusters until March 31, 2011.

Among the areas where the moratorium will continue are the three polluted clusters in Tamil Nadu Vellore, known for tanneries, Cuddalore, where chemical industries are predominant and Manali near Chennai, dotted with refineries. Meanwhile, environmentalists have expressed concern over the lifting of moratorium merely on the strength on action plans.

Green Signal :
Moratorium on new industrial projects lifted in Coimbatore, Vapi (Gujarat), Patancheru-Bollaram (AP) and Tarapur (Maharashtra). The environment ministry has extended the moratorium on remaining 38 clusters until March 31, 2011

Measures taken to reduce pollution: TNPCB

Environmentalists Concerned Over Lifting Of Industrial Moratorium In Coimbatore Cluster Chennai: Environmentalists and pollution watchers have cautioned against lifting a moratorium on new industrial projects in Coimbatore, rated among the most polluted clusters in the country The textile city had a moratorium imposed on it in March 2010 that banned any new projects from coming up in the area. The pollution was mainly caused by foundries in and around the city. When the Central Pollution Control Board conducted an environmental assessment in the cluster, it was found that Coimbatore had a Comprehensive Environment Pollution Index (CEPI) of 72.38. Any cluster with a score of above 70 is considered critically polluted and a temporary moratorium on new projects was imposed upon Coimbatore's industrial estate.

But now, the Union ministry has lifted the moratorium after the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) submitted action plans to keep the pollution levels down. Besides Coimbatore, reprieve has also been given to Vapi ( Gujarat), Patancheru-Bollaram (Andhra Pradesh), Tarapur (Maharashtra) and Mandi-Govindgarh (Punjab).

According to the TNPCB, some of measures are already being implemented in the area. "The measures include attachment of wet scrubbers to the induction furnaces and bag filters to trap the metal oxide," said a TNPCB official. "We have also advised them to recycle their burnt sand instead of disposing it. Four foundries have already implemented these measures. Two more shall do so. The SIPCOT industries in Coimbatore have applied for a sewage treatment plant." The official also charged that another source of pollution in the cluster comes from vehicular emissions. "The cluster is situated on both sides of a national highway and is close to a railway level crossing," he said. "The level crossing causes a large pile-up of vehicles several times a day, thus increasing the suspended particulate matter." But now, the NHAI shall build an overbridge to reduce the pile-up, he added.

In addition to this, the board has also introduced a plantation drive to increase the green cover. "But will the TNPCB act on its rules and regulations?" asks Selvam.

The ministry's memorandum has brought forth a mix of brickbats and bouquets from environmentalists. Many expressed their happiness at the moratorium being extended in the other clusters. "We welcome the decision to extend the moratorium on Cuddalore," says Shweta Narayan of Community Environmental Monitoring. "This sends out a message that laws cannot be compromised upon. We hope that this will induce the PCB to include community participation in monitoring pollution."

The concern of environmentalists is not unwarranted as the five clusters include Vapi, which is considered to be the most polluted town in the country and also has been featured as one of the 10 most polluted places in the world.

Vapi also tops all the 43 industrial clusters as the most critically polluted cluster. Tarapur in Maharashtra is home to an atomic reactor facility and several bulk drug manufacturing units, besides chemical, steel and textile plants. Patancheru-Bollaram, situated on the outskirts of Hyderabad, has high levels of arsenic and mercury in its groundwater. Induced cancer, skin and respiratory diseases are common among the locals.

Development Vs Environment
– Coimbatore is home to several foundries that have increased the pollution levels
– Environmentalists have expressed concern over the moratorium being lifted merely based on the action plans submitted by TNPCB
– Vapi in Gujarat is the most critically polluted cluster

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