Air, water and land quality worsened in India’s industrial clusters

Tarapur in Maharashtra emerges as the most polluted cluster


A new monitoring mechanism is indicating that industrial pollution levels continue to worsen in India. An evaluation of 88 industrial polluted clusters identified by the central and state pollution control boards (CPCB and SPCBs) as polluted industrial areas has thrown up a bleak picture of air, water and land contamination in the country, says the 2021 State of India’s Environment (SoE) report.

SoE report is an annual publication brought out by Down To Earth magazine in association with Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). The report was jointly released at an online event by over 60 environmental thinkers and activists, journalists and academics from across India.

In 2009, the Central Pollution Control Board had developed the Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI), which characterises the environmental quality of a location and identifies severely polluted industrial areas. According to CEPI data, air pollution worsened in 33 of the 88 industrial polluted clusters between 2009 and 2018.

In Delhi’s Najafgarh drain basin, the CEPI air quality score went up from 52 in 2009 to over 85 in 2018. Mathura (Uttar Pradesh) had a score of 48 in 2009, which shot up to 86 in 2018. The Bulandshahr-Khurja area in Uttar Pradesh nearly doubled its score, from 42 in 2008 to over 79 in 2018. Gajraula (Uttar Pradesh) and Siltara (Chhattisgarh) scored over 70 in 2018.

The quality of water deteriorated in 45 of the 88 polluted clusters in this same period. Sanganer (in Rajasthan) and Gurugram (in Haryana) had a CEPI water quality score of more than 70 in 2018. Tarapur (Maharashtra), Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh) and Varanasi-Mirzapur (Uttar Pradesh) – all indicated scores that were 80 or above.

 The comparison of CEPI 2009 and 2018 data shows that land pollution has increased in 17 of the 88 clusters. The worst performer here has been Manali, whose CEPI score went to over 71 in 2018 from 58 in 2009.

In terms of overall CEPI scores, 35 of the clusters have indicated a rise in environmental degradation. Tarapur (in Maharashtra) has had the ignominy – says the SoE – of the highest overall CEPI score of over 96 in 2018.

Nivit Kumar Yadav, programme director of CSE’s industrial pollution unit said that the CEPI data clearly indicates that there has been no action over the years to control and reduce pollution even in areas which were already identified as ‘critically’ or ‘severely’ polluted.

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