How Clean is Delhi

As the capital gears up to become a ‘World Class City’ by 2010, its envi- ronment still craves for attention. Most industries continue to disrespect the Water Pollution Act 1974, with impunity.

The waste generated from industrial units increases with the rise in population, rapid urbanisation and industrialisation. Recent estimates indicate that about 40 million tonnes of solid waste and about 5000 million cubic metres of liquid waste are generated every year in the urban areas.

The Ministry of Environment has put in place two broad systems to check air and water pollution. "All polluting industries are required to install what is called an Emission Control System (ECS) in case of air polluting units and an Effluent Treatment Plan (ETP) in case of water polluting units," says J. K. Dadoo, Secretary, Department of Environment, Delhi Government.

There are currently about 1,200 in- dustries that have installed the ETE Eateries are also expected to install Oil and Grease Traps to filter pollutants. "Any industrial unit that fails to install either of the two treatment plants, as per the requirements, will get a Refusal of Consent from the government," adds Dadoo. Besides, all states are expected to install a facility for the treatment of hazardous waste known as the Treatment Storage and Disposal Facility (TSDF).

All hazardous, toxic, heavy and large industries have been grouped under the ‘Red Category’. These units are not permitted to operate in the jurisdiction of National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi. They include firms that manufacture paper, paper products, acids (including battery acid, sulphuric acid, nitric acid), explosives, cellulose products like carbon paper, newsprint, gas, iron and steel factories, cotton and woollen textiles and agricultural implements.

Plastic and battery recycling units, steel-polishing, dyeing industries, bulbmanufacturing units are some other industries that fxmetion illegally in the city There is a cluster of steel polishing units in Azadpur Industrial Area, located a stone’s throw away from Shalimar Bagh. The accumulated waste is burnt at night.

There is a vast difference between what the policies say and what happens on the ground," says Ravi Aggarwal, Directol: Toxic Links, a non-government organisation (NGO). A large number of people succumb to the ill effects of industrial waste. The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act was enacted by Parliament in 1981 to prevent, control and abate air pollution under Section 19. Following this the National Capital of Delhi was declared an air pollution control area by the Central Government. Despite Section 22 of the Act, that states that no industry operating in an air pollution control area shall be permitted to emit any air pollutant more than the standards laid down by the state board, these units have been burning waste for the last 20 years.

Even after registering complaints with the police and the concerned department, no action has been taken," rues Indrajit Sarkar, resident, Shalimar Bagh. The continuous inhaling of smoke has led to breathing problems amongst residents. "Six cases of lung cancer have been reported from the area near the factories," he adds.

Public awareness and a little more activism is needed to bring about a change in society" says Aggarwal.

Water pollution is yet another problem. The water treatment plants have failed to drain out all the pollutants such as lead, cadmium, zinc and chemicals. In order to save on electricity, the machines at these treatment plants are also not put to use. Metal contamination in water can be traced to small-scale industries including battery producing, metal smelting and dyeing units.

According to Section 24 of the Water Act that deals with pollution control, no industrial unit can be allowed to discharge industrial waste into any rainwater drain, whose water is used for irrigation in the peri-urban area. The rainwater drain TD-5 that flows through several group-housing societies in Sectors 3 and 13 of Dwarka, carries waste from the small-scale industries in the nearby industria1 areas. This drain flows into the Najafgarh canal, whose water is used for irrigation. The silt causes the stagnation of water and makes it an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Chemical contamination of the water makes vegetables growing on the banks of the canal unfit for consumption. A study on the purity of vegetables states that there is an accumulation of heavy metals in the tissues of vegetables whose prolonged consumption leads to the disruption of biological and biochemical processes in the human body

It’s high time environment-friendly technologies are adopted to treat pollutants in the city This would not only improve the quality of waste but also generate decentralised energy Is anybody listening?