Nagpur: Bringing various discrepancies to the fore, environmentalists have trashed the data on the basis of which industries all over the state were given star ratings. The “latest” data, which was reportedly provided by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), even gives rating to two Chandrapur-based industries which are non-functional.
With the aim of making the data regarding industrial air pollution accessible to the common man, a star rating programme was jointly taken by the MPCB, Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC-India), the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (JPAL), Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) at Harvard Kennedy School and Tata Centre for Development (TCD) in June last year.
On April 1, TOI reported that thermal power plants of the region got a five-star rating in the programme. Also as per the data, the two most polluting industries were based in Chandrapur — Murli Cement and Vasant SahakariSakharKharkhana. The latter belongs to the sugar and distilling sector.
After the data was made public, Chandrapur’s environment activist Suresh Chopane pointed out that two industries in the list were shut down around 2014-15. Only industries having at least four recent stack samples (air quality samples taken from chimney of manufacturing units) are eligible to participate in the programme. The ratings are based on the median concentration of the latest stack samples for particulate matter.
According to environment expert Debi Goenka, who has done an extensive study on thermal power plants of the country, the data provided by the board is “not always reliable”. “When giving star ratings to industries, not just one but all the parameters like liquid effluents, oxides of sulphur and nitrate and other pollution sources should be taken into account. Besides, the monitoring done by MPCB is extremely poor and many times manipulated. The censors might not be calibrated well, the software is not functioning properly or in many cases actual samples are not collected from the stack,” said Goenka.
In April last year, TOI had exposed how the data regarding sulphur dioxide emissions from Koradi Thermal Power Station (KTPS) was fudged. While MPCB’s data showed SO2 emissions well within permissible limits, data provided by KTPS revealed that the SO2 levels at the stack were over five times the permissible limit set by the ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEFCC).
Chopane further pointed out that emissions from only one stack can’t decide the pollution levels. “You can’t just take the emission data of new unit of Chandrapur Super Thermal Power Station and give it a rating. What about the old units which are highly polluting? This is sending across a wrong message and there is a chance that industries might misuse the ratings,” he added.
The biggest loophole is that the ratings do not reflect the time period, said Kaustav Chatterjee, founder of Green Vigil. “If closed industries are being rated, it clearly shows latest monitoring data is not being used. The ratings must reflect the time period when sampling was done,” he added.
EPIC-India and JPAL said it is only a curator of the data. “We do not collect the data directly but work on what is submitted to us. Moreover, the purpose of programme is to highlight such discrepancies too so that the public is aware of polluting industries,” said a spokesperson.