Need to re-examine CPCB directed relaxations in the provisions for Consents under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution Act, 1981 for different classes of Industries.

Published on 10/02/2017

Need to re-examine CPCB directed relaxations in the provisions for Consents under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution Act, 1981 for different classes of Industries.

Dr. Yashpal Singh

I have recently come across a letter written by the Member Secretary, Central Pollution Control Board to the Member Secretaries of all the State Pollution Control Board and committees on granting exemption from the statutory provisions of consent to certain classes of Industries. (Annexure-Attachment) The letter the intent of which is very progressive and encouraging, has been placed on the public domain and has far reaching repercussions on compliance monitoring. I have a long association with the State Pollution Control Boards and therefore take this liberty of listing a few suggestions which could help the Boards in taking further action in the matter.

  1. The letter in question seeks to amend the regulatory requirements as prescribed in the Act and therefore the legality has to be examined. In my opinion, the basic provisions as laid down in the Act, cannot be amended unless done by Parliament. This examination is all the more necessary because apart from ensuring a clean environment as envisaged by Parliament the consent mechanism also generates fees and any change may have fiscal repercussions also. The Boards may like to take a view in the matter. The matter may also require discussions at the Member Secretary/Chairmen Conference.
  2. It has been suggested that for the White category of Industries there is no need to obtain consents. The provisions of sections 25/26 of the Water Act 1974, however, include a consent to establish and operate both for industrial wastes and sewage. The classification of industries into the Red, Orange, Green and White Categories by the CPCB also suggests that that the white category industries could also include industries producing upto 10 KLD of industrial effluents with a BOD of up to 200 mg/L and may need to treat their effluents.  Also even if some white category industries may not be discharging industrial effluents, the discharge of domestic sewage cannot be ruled out. Domestic sewage, it may be appreciated is a source of more than 80% of the pollution of all inland surface water and I am sure that we would not want to deregulate it. Simplification of procedures for obtaining consents could however be attempted instead of exempting from the provisions of consent. This could be examined by the   Boards and incorporated in the Consent Rules which are necessary for any consent mechanism.

The Air Act 1981, imposes restrictions on industrial plants and therefore a White category industry can only be exempted from consent under the Air Act if it is not operating any ‘Industrial Plant’ which is defined as any plant used for any industrial or trade purposes and emitting any air pollutant into the Atmosphere. Since White category Industry could also be using Diesel Generating sets and other machinery emitting Air Pollutants including noise, deregulating them from the consent mechanism would be against the spirit of the law as enunciated by Parliament. Although the provisions of section 19 of the Water Act empower the State Government to restrict the applicability of the Act to certain areas, there is no provision to restrict the applicability of the Act to a particular class of Persons or activities. Consent provisions are applicable on each ‘Person’.

Exempting the white category totally form the provisions of consent may not be desirable environmentally and legally and may also have fiscal implications resulting in loss of revenue for the Boards.

Cumulative effects of multiple sources of low strength pollutants have a major impact on the environment which must certainly not be neglected.

 Nevertheless, going by the spirit of the classification, there is a need to simplify procedures for the white category which the Boards may like to evolve.

  1. It has been suggested that a combined consent for establishment and operation can be issued to green category of industries. Since both the consents, as provided by law, are proposed to be granted, my only suggestion would be to ensure that these consents are issued for establishment, as is being done today and the consent order may specify that the consent to establish is being issued along with a consent to operate for a period of one year, or as may be decided by the Boards. A provision could be included for seeking a certified compliance report from the Regional officer to be placed before the Member Secretary before start of Commercial production. The fee in this regards could be taken for both the consents and procedures evolved. There is a need to get the approval of the Board and incorporate the same in the consent rules, for implementation.
  2. The CPCB letter in question also provides that Building and Construction projects falling at S.No. 8(a) and 8(b) of the schedule of projects and activities covered under the EIA notification of 2006 should be exempt from provisions of consent to establish, if they have a valid environmental clearance from the MoEF & CC /SEIAA. It has also been suggested here that there should be a permanent member from SPCB in the SEIAA to represent the view of the SPCB. The letter in question has also provided that the consent to establish may be exempted for all such project or activities which require an Environmental Clearance from the MoEF/SEIAA. Looking into the fact that an EIA clearance is a more comprehensive clearance including may facets and conditions beyond the scope of the Pollution Control Boards it would not be feasible to, in the event of treating an E.C. at par with a consent under the Pollution Control Laws, to impose all E.C. Conditions as conditions of consent and expect the Boards to regulate compliance. It may also not be legally justified to do away with the provision of consent to establish under the present provisions, however if this procedure is adopted, it may be desirable to issue a common E.C. and a consent to establish with suitable legal justification to account for the changes and also to account for the inclusion of a member from the Pollution Control Board in the State Level Environmental Impact Assessment Authority.

I would feel that with the Pollution Control machinery vested with the Pollution Control Board, a consent to establish which is granted specifically for waste Management needs to continue and the E.C. which serves the needs of forestry, land use, wetland conservation wildlife, energy conservation, social impacts, life quality indicators, corporate social responsibilities etc should separately continue through the E.C. Mechanism. That was probably the understanding of the law makers when they introduced separate provisions of clearances under the E.P. Act and the Pollution Control Laws.

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