VIJAYAWADA: Following the Vizag gas leak, and with an aim to preserve the environment, Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy on Wednesday decided to come up with a new legislation — the AP Environment Improvement Act — through which the government will monitor pollution from industries and the hazardous chemicals they deal with. The proposed Act will have provisions to take stringent action and impose hefty fines on industries, in case of violations.
This decision was taken during a review meeting the CM held with Special Chief Secretary (Environment and Forests) Neerabh Kumar Prasad, AP Pollution Control Board member-secretary Vivek Yadav and other officials. The proposed Act seeks to make industries more compliant, introduce a third-party auditing mechanism, install real-time pollution-monitoring equipment, impose penalties for violating norms, and levy Environmental Damage Compensation charges.
The government opined that existing laws, such as the Water Act, Air Act and Environment (Protection) Act, deal with controlling pollution, but do not have sufficient provisions to ensure compliance and environmental auditing. For any major violations under these Acts, the regulatory authorities may issue directions to stop production or shut the industry.
New Act for effective monitoring, compliance, says Chief Minister
The Chief Minister felt the need for a new Act for effective monitoring and compliance. “Every company shall mandatorily give periodic reports on compliance of conditions prescribed by the PCB and the reports shall be audited and reviewed by third-party auditors. Field-level visits should be made and observations made during these visits shall be placed in the public domain,” Jagan said.
Further all major polluting (red and orange zone) industries will have to install a Continuous Ambient Air Quality Monitoring System (CAAQS), Continuous Effluent Quality Monitoring System (CEQMS) and transmit the data to the APPCB control centre. Jagan also wanted officials to formulate a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) so alerts are sent to the local administration when an unforeseen situation arises at an industrial unit or the pollution levels emanated cross the permissible limit.
For minor violations, a monetary penalty will be introduced so there is “self motivation” for compliance with pollution norms, the government said. Minor violations include non-compliance of authorisation conditions, nonsubmission of environmental statement and non-compliance of directions issued by authorities. The existing environment Acts don’t have a provision for Environment Damage Compensation (EDC), Jagan observed and wanted officials to impose EDC on violating industries for restoration of cost of damages caused to property, flora and fauna.
Major violations, which fall under the provision for EDC, include release of pollutants above permissible limits, unauthorised activity, degradation of air quality, contamination of water resources, soil, groundwater, adverse effect on human health, loss of ecosystem services, and damage to property, related assets and productive assets. “The amount realised through the levy of EDC will be credited to the Green Fund, which will be utilised for protection, improvement and management of the environment,” officials said. The CM told officials to ensure industries are not located within a specific distance from human habitations.