Environmental Pollution and Contamination: Role of Industry , Regulator and Civil Society
At the Natural Farming & Environment Festival on July 26, 2013 at the Community Center, Urban estate, Phase-III, Bathinda, Punjab which was inaugurated by Parkash Singh Badal, Chief Minister, Punjab, Gopal Krishana of ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) spoke as one of the panelists on the issue of “Environmental Pollution and Contamination : Role of Industry , Regulator and Civil Society “.
Speaking on the issue, Gopal Krishna recalled the lessons from the recent insecticides tragedy of Chapra, Bihar in which 23 children died due eating food contaminated with chemical insecticides. There should be a provision for taking back of Insecticide containers by the manufacturers else such tragedies will continue to happen. Lessons from such cases in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka that suffered tragedies in 1958 that led to the enactment of Insecticides Act, 1968 have not been learnt.
He raised the question about who regulates the regulator. He asked Ravinder Singh, IAS, Chairman, Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), a fellow panelist if he can regulate the factories which contaminates his own blood that flows in his veins and arteries. It is theoretically and practically possible to back trace the origin of the chemicals, which enter our blood stream without permission. In this way how is it possible to penalize the culprits once the factories and sources that poison our food chain have been identified? The fact that politicians and bureaucrats are appointed as Chairman of Pollution Control Boards in violation of Supreme Court order shows that those who regulate the regulators are more powerful than the governments, state assemblies and the parliament. The companies involved in the manufacturing of insecticides have made governments, state assemblies and the parliament subservient to their interests by donating funds to the political parties up to 5 per cent of their annual profits. As per the new companies bill, these corporate contributions will soon be 7.5 per cent of their annual profits. In such a situation, when there is a conflict between corporate profit and public health, the former gets the priority.
Gopal Krishna argued that how is that despite knowing that waste to energy projects are emitters of persistent Organic Pollutants gets environmental clearance as has happened in the case of the project of Jaiprakash Associates Ltd in Chandigarh’s dump site at Dadu Majra.
Such projects are proposed in eight places in Punjab including one at Bhatinda. There is a case against the Bhatinda project in the National Green Tribunal (NGT). A local commissioner has been appointed by the NGT to visit Bhatinda project site on July 27, 2013 as was done in the case of Delhi’s Okhla waste to energy project. Such local commissioners do not inspire any confidence among the affected communities and their report in the case of Okhla show that it is status quoist in its approach.
Unless questions of environmental concerns are dealt with as political questions by the civil society, expression of pious wishes for environmental protection at seminars and conferences will yield no results.
The other panelists included Ravinder Singh,IAS, Chairman, Punjab Pollution Control Board, Dr Sudhirendar Sharma, a water expert formerly with World Bank, Amit Khurana from Centre for Science and Environment, Lakshman Singh, a well known farmer from Rajasthan and K K Yadav IAS DC, Chief Town Planner Punjab. The program was organized by Kheti Virasat Mission with support from PPCB, NABARD and others.