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CPCB proposes revising norms for critically polluted areas
Sep 22, 2015

Citing the absence of reliable qualitative data, the central pollution watchdog is proposing to do away with consideration of factors such as the impact on people and eco-geological features while deciding whether an industrial cluster is critically polluted or not.

Why Beneficial for Industry

⇒ Move by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) is likely to be welcomed by industries who have been seeking environmental clearance for their projects in industrial clusters that have been classed as critically-polluted areas as their projects were denied the nod, as the environment ministry does not clear any new developmental projects that could increase pollution in critically-polluted areas.

What is CEPI

Dating back to 2009, the CEPI was based on the effect of industrial clusters on air, water, land, health and ecology. It was used as a measure for a pan-India environmental assessment of 88 prominent industrial clusters conducted by the pollution board. As a result of the exercise, 43 industrial clusters with a CEPI score of 70 and higher (on a scale of 0 to 100) were identified as critically-polluted areas. In January 2010 during the United Progressive Alliance’s tenure, the environment ministry imposed a moratorium on consideration of any developmental project in those areas.

What changes on the unveil

⇒ The CPCB is proposing to overhaul the factors on which the CEPI score is calculated and critically-polluted areas are decided. 
⇒ According to draft “The present methodology on evaluation of CEPI score has been a matter of discussion on various occasions including during the national-level conferences as well as regular meetings of State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) and other stakeholders”
⇒ The draft said calculation of factors such as a proposed project’s impact on people, on eco-geological features and potentially affected population —all part of the existing CEPI— needs reliable health impact studies on humans, flora and fauna.
⇒ The CPCB is now proposing a revision of the CEPI norms, saying health studies require huge funds, are time consuming and complex due to difficulties in finding truly representative data.
⇒ Draft adds “After careful examination and consideration of the suggestions of stakeholders concerned, it is decided to prepare the revised concept of CEPI by eliminating the subjective factors but retaining the factors which can be measured precisely,” 

What will be there in new guidelines

The revised CEPI will be based on sources of pollution, real-time observed values of the pollutants in the ambient air, surface water and ground water in and around the industrial cluster and health-related statistics. The health component will be evaluated based on health data drawn from major hospitals in the area.

This would mean, for instance, that for measuring air pollution, experts will consider the total number of hospital cases related to asthma, bronchitis, respiratory cancer, and acute respiratory infections. Similarly, for surface water and ground water pollution, cases related to gastroenteritis, diarrhoea, kidney malfunction, and cancer would be considered. Officials studying a project will take into account the previous five years’ medical records drawn from 3-5 major hospitals in the area.

Criticism of the move

  • Move, aimed at making it easy to do business in India, dilutes environmental norms and could affect the lives of millions living in such industrial clusters.

  • Other argument being to determine pollutant area both both qualitative and quantitative criteria are equally important

  • Just because CPCB does not have the necessary human resource to measure them, it is no case for diluting the norms. They should instead try to increase their capacity, as there is enough human resource competence in India to measure the qualitative criteria. It also shows the kind of priority of CPCB, which is supposed to be the guiding institution of the country against pollution 


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