According to the Environmental Performance Index (PC-EPI) compiled by the Planning Commission to devolve funds to the states based on EPI ranking, West Bengal ranks 30 among 35 states and Union Territories evaluated with a paltry score of 0.4769 on a scale of 1. It flounders in its efforts to protect its environment and it lags behind Maharashta, Tamil Nadu, Orissa and the North-eastern states. The Statesman looks at the five of the most abused legislations in the state.
Norm 1 ~ The West Bengal Inland Fisheries Act, 1984 (amended in 1993), The West Bengal Town and Country (Planning and Development), Act, 1979, Section 24 of the Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, and 4D of the West Bengal Land & Land Reforms Act, 1956
What does it state ~ Inland Fisheries Act bars filling up of any water body ~ measuring five cottahs or more ~ where water is retained for minimum six months.
State of affairs ~ With realty boom in the city and the outskirts, existence of waterbodies has become precarious. The areas of Baguiati, Laketown and Bangur that once had expansive water bodies, have now become jungle of concrete structures. In March, the state fisheries department had accused West Bengal Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (Hidco) of filling 33 waterbodies for the construction of New Town Township violating the Act.
Norm 2 ~ Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
What does it state ~ Establishes the regime and defines the actors in the prevention, control and abatement of air pollution in India.
State of affairs ~ Even after two years of Calcutta High Court verdict on scrapping the two stroke autos, old but repainted autos continue to rule the roads in city and suburbs. The Pollution Control Board fails to check industrial pollution arising out of unorganised sectors such as lead battery and acid manufacturing units. Sponge iron units continue to cough poison into the environment. Effluents from several orange and red category industries are seen flowing through open canals and drains in the city.
Norm 3 ~ The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. The act was amended in 1988.
What does it state ~ Contamination of water or such alteration of the physical, chemical or biological properties of water or such discharge of any sewage or trade effluent or of any other liquid, gaseous or solid substance into water as may or is likely to, create a nuisance.
State of affairs ~ Thousand of industries on the banks of rivers in the state continue to dump effluents in the rivers. The pollution control board and the municipalities have failed to check sewage flow into the rivers. The Ganga Action Plan launched by the Government of India with much fanfare has failed miserably in its objectives.
Norm 4 ~ The West Bengal Trees (Protection & Conservation in non-forest areas) Act, 2006.
What does it state ~ Felling of trees in non-forest and urban areas can be allowed only for valid reasons.
State of affairs ~ Not many in the city know that cutting a tree for trivial reasons is a punishable offence. In case complaint is lodged, police arrest labourers while those who ordered the trees to be cut get away. Punishment is easily evaded by paying a bribe of few hundreds. It should be noted that 80 per cent of saplings die within weeks due to lack of maintenance.
Norm 5 ~ The Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) (Amendment) Rules, 2003
What does it state ~ It shall be the duty of every occupier of an institution generating bio-medical waste to take all steps to ensure that such waste is handled without any adverse effect to human health and the environment. Bio-medical waste shall be treated and disposed of in accordance with the rules.
State of affairs ~ The government hospitals are found to be frequent defaulters. While the blue and black bags carrying waste sharps and blood soaked cotton are seen littered at several places. There is no separate VAT for red or yellow bags that contain infectious waste or human anatomical waste. The waste collectors are highly exposed to infection and diseases as they carry such bags, to be dumped in a truck, with bare hands.
The state pollution control board had slapped a closure notice on Calcutta Medical Research Institute (CMRI) for failing to dispose of infectious biomedical waste properly. State-run Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, Howrah state General Hospital, and Uluberia sub-divisional hospitals had been fined in the past.
Though the Kolkata Municipal Corporation repeatedly denies the fact, but biomedical waste is often seen dumped in Dhapa.
OF HOPE AND DESPAIR…
HOPE ~ E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011: With the recent notification of E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011, the state would soon have an e-waste reprocessing unit.
The rules that will come into effect from 1 May, 2012 state that all old computers and electronic equipment will have to be disposed of to authorised collection centres that would deal with electronic waste.
A recent study by the state pollution control board along with the Central pollution control board, the Indian Chamber of Commerce and German organisation GiZ has found that nearly 26,000 tons of e-waste is generated in Kolkata, Howrah, Salt Lake, Kalyani, Barasat and Uluberia. The recent study predicts e-waste generation will shoot up nearly six times to about 1,45,000 tons within a decade. The concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) has been incorporated in the draft rules. Accordingly, the producers are required to finance and organise a system for environmentally sound management of e-waste generated from their products.
DESPAIR ~ Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2011: On 19 February, 1991, the Union ministry of environment and forests issued a notification under Section 3 of the Environment Protection Act of 1986, seeking to regulate development activity on India’s coastline.
There have been about 25 amendments to this notification between 1991 and 2009, some of which have been based on the directions of the Supreme Court. In May 2008, the MOEF brought out a new draft CRZ notification that evoked much criticism from all sections of stakeholders. Eventually, this notification was allowed to lapse and the ministry brought out a fresh notification in September 2010, which after much discussions, was finally passed as Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2011 on 6 January, 2011. With respect to the list of prohibited activities, four other exceptions have been now incorporated which include projects of Department of Atomic Energy; facilities for generating non-conventional energy sources and desalination plans, development of greenfield airport permitted only at Navi Mumbai; and reconstruction and repair of dwelling units of local communities. However, fishermen communities claim that their demands were yet again neglected.