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Integrated approach to Environmental Sustainability a must for pursuing industrial growth

Half of India’s existing 88 industrial clusters are critically polluted. With the country’s ambition to increase the percentage contribution of manufacturing sector to over 25% of GDP, it is important that an integrated approach to environmental sustainability is framed to achieve targeted industrial growth.

In 2010, India ranked 123 (amongst the 163 that were considered) on the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) with a score of 48.3. Our nation had a particularly low score for performance indicators like environmental health, air pollution and water pollution (effects on humans and ecosystems) and climate change vulnerability. The industrial and urban areas in India are plagued with numerous environmental problems like air and water pollution, solid waste management and depleting non renewable resources.  The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has identified half of the 88 industrial clusters in India as critically polluted. The World Health Organization (WHO) in 2008 listed two Indian industrial areas Ludhiana and Kanpur among the top 10 polluted industrial centers of the world.  Lack of common effluent /waste water treatment in Small and  Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in industrial sectors have a significant cumulative impact on the environment. Even the judiciary has taken a view of this serious situation: we have the case of Tirupur industrial area where the Chennai High court ordered closure of over 720 dyeing industries for not having Effluent Treatment Plants (ETP) leading to high pollution of the Noyyal river. The dyeing industries in the region have cited the high cost and technical capabilities involved in setting ETP as reasons for non compliance. Many cases like the Tirupur industrial cluster exist across India and need to be acted upon to prevent further environmental degradation of those communities.

In the recent times, the Government has initiated various measures to promote industrial development in an environmentally sustainable manner. The ASEM (Advisory Services in Environment Management) program was started in 2002 in a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Environment and Forest and GIZ (the German International Society for cooperation). The program provides technical support for the development of pilot measures to enhance environmental sustainability in urban and industrial areas. The ministry of new and renewable energy has started number of schemes to support energy efficiency in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and other developmental projects.  The recently approved National Manufacturing Policy (NMP) has stringent norms to ensure ‘Green Manufacturing’; these include mandatory environmental and water audit for all industrial and institutional units in the National Investment and Manufacturing Zones (NIMZ) by external auditors/firms drawn from a panel approved by the Green Manufacturing Committee (GMAC). The National Manufacturing policy has also made wastewater treatment and rain water harvesting compulsory for industries under the zone. There are also incentives to the companies to adopt renewable energy and green buildings.
By 2020 India aims to increase the percentage contribution of manufacturing sector to over 25 %. The recently approved National Manufacturing Policy aims to create integrated industrial townships and there are also several Small Economic Zones (SEZ) and minor industrial clusters coming up in many states. An environmentally sustainable industrial growth path is thus required to prevent environmental degradation and achieve targeted industrial growth.

Towards environmental sustainability
India has a strong environment policy and legislative framework and well-established institutions at the national and state level, however innovations in green technologies, implementation strategies and a development framework needs to be in place to ensure environmentally sustainable industrial growth in India. The two initial tasks on this front are improving the environmental conditions of existing industrial areas and to promote future industrial areas in the modes similar to eco-industrial parks (EIPs).

An effort on the EIP front has been made by Andhra Pradesh Industrial Development Corporation Ltd (APIIC) in partnership with GIZ through a Project on ‘Planning & Development of Eco Industrial Parks in Andhra Pradesh’ Several other states are keen to develop Eco Industrial Parks.

Developing innovative sustainable development technologies indigenously and in collaboration with developed nations will be essential for evolving the right EIP approach conducive to the Indian conditions. The gaps in technical capabilities, policies and implementation strategy need to be identified and measures need to be taken to address the same. The framework on developing EIP should include best principles practiced globally and should comply with Indian Environmental legislations and CPCB guidelines.

On the Energy front, the total demand for electricity in India is expected to cross 950 GW by 2030. As such, in view of the future energy demand, it is critical that we harvest renewable energy options to their maximum potential.

More incentives and benefits need to be provided to encourage industries to go green. Also compulsory environmental and water audits for all industries will be a giant step towards achieving environmental sustainability.

The author, Dhanapal. G is an ecological planner working in India.


Image(s) Courtesy:
Andrew Ciscel