Interview with Dr. Paritosh Tyagi, Former Chairman, CPCB - on air pollution
Shri Ravinder K. Tyagi, Country Head, EHS, Marathon Electric, who has enormous experience of more than 4 decades and a very passionate environmental professional talks to Sanjaya K. Mishra on various environmental issues relevant to Corporates and industries.
From your vast experience, what are the challenges in Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) areas?
I have been fortunate to work with many high quality professionals in the field of EHS in various Indian and Multi-National Corporations. If we talk about environment, industrial safety and occupational health in global scenario, India is lagging far behind. The problem is not in the part of industries. Rather, the overall infrastructure of India is responsible for such a situation.
What is your opinion on the compliance level that we have attained in India?
Environmental compliance level is not that encouraging in India. In industrial scenario, environmental compliance starts with Consent such as Air Consent, Water Consent or related Authorizations; which is not even mandatory for all industrial activities. Wherever it is applicable, the terms and conditions of such consents and authorizations, are not complied with in a true letter of spirit. This is primarily due to poor infrastructure in the country. For example, let us keep aside European nations and US, and talk about Asian countries like Thailand, Singapore, where they have environmental professionals in industries. On the contrary, in India, we have the requirement of a safety officer for a certain number of employees, but there is no such requirement prevailing for an environmental professional. In most of the industries, either the Safety Officials or the Administrative department or Human Resources Department looks after the environmental issues. As they do not possess requisite level of knowledge, the entire objective gets defeated.
Public Liability Insurance Act, 1991 - compliance is still not fully attained. Can you throw some light on this?
Industries are entirely ignorant. This could be better implemented by linking it with the consent at granting stage for all those units, which require. This Act does not apply to the industries, which do not deal with hazardous substances.
How do you think about adoption of Recycling habits by the Industrial units?
Recycling will lead to huge energy conservation opportunities. It could also result in water saving, waste reduction and thereby, build a better environment with low degree of nuisances. However, these programmes need widespread promotion. The primary custodian of such activities in India is State Pollution Control Board (SPCB). The infrastructure of SPCBs are not adequately strengthened since their constitution. SPCBs are struggling with paucity of manpower and their officials are overloaded with work. Further, there is a need to infuse knowledge enhancement programs of the officials. This could further boost the good habits such as recycling, in industries.
With technology advancement, do you think IoT (Internet of Things) will help better compliance?
Consent management in most of the Indian states is now online. At the same time, it is appalling that people have to go for submission of hard copies. This has increased working of every one. When our government approach is not so clear, adoption IoT is could be an interesting thing to watch with time.
As an industry representative, what’s your view on Polluter Pay Principle (PPP), in India?
PPP is a kind theory that we have adopted from USA and Europe, where the conditions are completely different. In the developing nations, the authorities and industries, both have a high degree of knowledge level; as compared to India. Therefore, I have an apprehension that it may not yield better result in India, but may be misused in arm twisting.
Do you think India has enough able manpower in the field of environment – be it corporate, industry, government, judiciary, activists and NGOs?
We don’t have any environmental professionals practically. There are very limited courses available and primarily it is in Post Graduate level.
Do you think that environmental institutions should offer executive training programs, like the IIMs' doing?
Yes, India needs to design more capsule courses in the field of environment. Moreover, it is important that there should be a compulsion that an industry has to depute their professionals for participation in knowledge enhancement programmes. Such programmes should be carried out at regular intervals, for example 4 times in a year. Nevertheless, the programme details should be linked it the mandatory annual returns filed as per requirements of the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
What are the things now R K Tyagi is going to do for the society?
Yes, this is a very important question. Whatever I have learnt from the colossal knowledge banks of MNCs like General Electric, Marathon Electric and so on; I wish to work with various links to impart some knowledge and also keep on working to increase my knowledge bank. Somehow, I have missed to reach to that link and I am looking forward to it.
Mr. K. P. Singh, Director (Construction & Operations), M/s Global Realty Venture Limited, New Delhi talks to Sanjaya K. Mishra. Mr. Singh has enormous experience of over 3 decades in several iconic national and international construction projects.
You must be aware of two notifications the MoEF&CC introduced in November 2018, in which the construction projects are mostly made out of the purview of EIA Notification. What is your view as a domain expert?
It is unfortunate. On the one hand we are talking about decentralization of power, and when a government act on it, some people are too scared to bear that change. At the same time, as democracy prevails in our country, the government should also have consulted with experts before taking such important decisions. The basic objective should remain sustainable and progressive investments. I believe that the new government will address all concerns and objections and also take everyone into the same page.
Do you think that it was a concerted plan or a hurried action or an act of some other reason not shared with the public?
I would like to reiterate, in a democratic country like India, the Government should have consulted all stakeholders before taking a decision.
Do you think Indian Municipal Corporations and Panchayats can take up such responsibilities?
Decentralization of power and Capacity building is a continuous process of development. There were similar concerns when SEIAAs were formed. So far, there is no such legal complication found in the cases of projects cleared by the SEIAAs. Therefore, I am optimistic that an institution, once empowered, delivers. We have many experts available at different levels, who could participate in decision-making processes. Moreover, the power decentralization could have reduced post-project legal hassles with effective use of single-window clearance policies.
In the post-Katowice scenario, we are expecting much funds to flow into the green building sector. What are the challenges we have?
Green Building is a sustainable construction concept, which meets the needs of the present with good consideration of future demands and requirements. Sustainability in the construction industry is brought basically by good technical use of sustainable materials and energy etc. with simultaneous minimization in wastage and pollution. The number of green buildings in the country is rapidly growing. The biggest challenge for the green building sector is lack of awareness and demand among end users. Another challenge is the availability of viable cost-effective technologies. The concept of green building has got a substantial boost, since the last couple of years. Still, there are many stones remaining unturned. We have to imbibe technology and restructure the same to fit into our cases.
How to overcome those challenges?
By exploring cost-effective technologies. For example, the adoption of solar energy was a good measure. But, it was high on capital investment. As, lately, the CAPEX in solar energy utilization has come down, it has become popular. Also, there is a need for open communications between corporates, research institutions, government and society (activists and buyers). Projects should not take too much of a long time for completion. Infrastructure must be created by the government at the same time when it brings in new policy or amendments.
What are the parameters primarily considered in a green building project?
The term Green Building refers to a structure and using processes that are environmentally responsible and resource-efficient throughout a building's life-cycle. The Green Building project differs from conventional building projects by assigning equal priorities to economic, social, and environmental goals. It has now been universally accepted that it is critical to the design of environmentally responsible buildings for sustainable development. Research shows that Green Building improves tenants‘ satisfaction and health, enabling higher individual productivity in respective areas of expertise. As a result of the increased interest in Green Building concepts and practices, a number of organizations have developed standards, codes and rating systems conservation of water, energy, and building materials, and occupant comfort and health.
How is the construction industry responding to the Construction & Demolition Waste Rules?
The major source of Construction and Demolition waste is from the demolition of existing structures. Eliminating wastes, minimizing wastes and reusing imminent wastes need to be practiced. Recycling of demolition waste is not new. It was first carried out after the Second World War in Germany to tackle the problem of disposing of large amounts of demolition waste caused by the war and simultaneously generate raw material for reconstruction. Having said that, again state-of-art proven technologies should be adopted and the final disposal should be carried out as per the legal provisions.
Earlier, you have served as the Field Officer of the Haryana State Pollution Control Board office at Gurugram, Regional Officer at Panipat and now, a resident of Gurugram. How would you respond to the speculations on the basis of a report by Greenpeace and IQ AirVisual, which terms Gurugram, the erstwhile Gurgaon as the world’s most polluted cities in 2018?
Prima facie, the Greenpeace and IQ AirVisual report stating Gurugram as the worst polluted city in the world - seems bogus, baseless and seems to be influenced by vested interests. Environmental issues including air pollution have become serious matters for contemporary human life. In the age of social media, such speculations cause traumatic effects in human psychology. Environmental reporting and journalism should be sensible.
What are the possible reasons to support your claims?
There are several technical reasons, which indicates the Greenpeace and IQ AirVisual report is not factual. For example, total numbers of rainy days in 2018 were 73 as compared to 44 in 2017. The report under discussion is based on PM2.5 that settles with rain. Secondly, Gurugram got 4 underpasses and four flyovers in the most traffic-concerned areas. Besides, traffic flow has become smooth in the DLF cyber city area and Golf Course road with the help of several underpasses and flyover. Further, the traffic management has significantly improvised in many parts of the city. Thirdly, construction activities have slowed down and virtually there is no addition to the number of industries. A fourth reason could be that the working of the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram (MCG) has significantly improved in terms of road sweeping, cleanliness and even plantation. Moreover, there was no shortage of power and no power cuts during 2018, so working hours for DG Sets may have considerably reduced. Nevertheless, the newspaper flash reports do not provide the technical depth.
How do you reckon the reports of the World Health Organization (WHO) over Greenpeace and IQ AirVisual?
The identity of both organizations has radical differences. Although, there are findings to substantiate that sometimes WHO reports are also based on data lacking traceability, their reports are more reliable as compared to the other one.
Do you think the air pollution issue is being overhyped?
Yes. Because it is visible. Water pollution and noise pollution are equally grave or even more in terms of seriousness. Especially, in cities like Gurugram, Ghaziabad, Faridabad groundwater pollution is a major concern. Sound pollution or noise pollution pose a dangerous effect, almost everywhere in the country. And people are ignoring this part. One has to be careful about the much-hyped propaganda as these are influenced by a select section.
What are the vested interests you think?
The vested interests could be the Air purifier sales force. It is also possibly a concerted effort to dent the image of Gurugram that could result in brain-drain and demagnetize investors.
Do you think that the online monitoring systems are working satisfactorily? Because there is no calibration system available to support the online system generated data.
Working of online monitoring systems has been in question because we don’t have a calibration facility. However, validation with the data obtained from other traditional methods shows satisfactory trends.
Do you have any suggestion with regard to the ambient air quality monitoring policy?
Yes. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Bureau of Indian Standards and some premier institutions like NEERI, IITs have made a significant contribution in this field. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC), State Environmental Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAAs) and some State Pollution Control Boards (SPCBs) specify conditions of ambient air quality monitoring while according Environmental Clearances, Consents, and approvals. What we are lacking is – effective communication between projects or industries and these authorities. And this is more important in urban areas. The SPCBs must become proactive and take forward steps to devise effectively workable monitoring plans. For example selection of monitoring locations with specific reference to the guidelines and standards as well as the climatic conditions. They also clarify the required test parameters. Because it is specified in the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, 2009; most of the laboratory service buyers opt to go for 12 parameters without even the source of Nickel and Lead kind of parameters, which are extremely costly. Also, it is often found that there is no appropriate pricing mechanism for monitoring. Actual implementation could be attained by means of establishing a trail of documentary evidence such as test reports, calibration and reference materials, purchase orders, payments, and technical data sheets. And this should be made a standard practice by delineating in the form of a condition.
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