Or­der, dis­or­der

Supreme Court or­ders to curb industrial emis­sions in the Taj Trapez­ium Zone have been im­ple­mented but progress in sev­eral other ar­eas is a con­cern

Down to Earth - - CONTENTS -

Some of the Supreme Court's or­ders for the Taj Ma­hal have still not been com­piled with

The Taj Trapez­ium case, seek­ing the Supreme Court’s in­ter­ven­tion to pro­tect the Taj Ma­hal from the ad­verse ef­fects of harm­ful air pol­lu­tants, is one of the long­est-run­ning en­vi­ron­ment court cases in In­dia. Filed a year af­ter the mon­u­ment was de­clared a World Her­itage Site in 1983,the pe­ti­tion blamed Agra’s foundries, haz­ardous chem­i­cal in­dus­tries, and the oil re­fin­ery at Mathura as the ma­jor sources of pol­lu­tants dam­ag­ing and dis­colour­ing the Taj. It said sul­phur diox­ide (SO2) emit­ted by the re­fin­ery and the in­dus­tries, when com­bined with oxy­gen and mois­ture, formed sul­phuric acid which had a cor­rod­ing ef­fect on the white mar­ble of the build­ing.

The pe­ti­tion led to the apex court pass­ing a se­ries of or­ders to pro­tect the air, wa­ter and land around the Taj Ma­hal as well as in the en­tire Taj Trapez­ium Zone (ttz).

Turn­ing point

The turn­ing point in the case came on De­cem­ber 30,1996,when the Supreme Court (SC) asked 292 small in­dus­tries in Agra to ei­ther shift to nat­u­ral gas or shift out of ttz by Fe­bru­ary 1997, fail­ing which they would be closed .While pass­ing the or­der, the court mainly re­lied on the re­port pre­pared by the Na­tional En­vi­ron­men­tal En­gi­neer­ing Re­search In­sti­tute (neeri) in 1993,which held small-scale in­dus­tries of Agra (mostly foundries) and glass in­dus­tries of the neigh­bour­ing town of Firoz­abad re­spon­si­ble for the pol­lu­tion. Fac­tory own­ers and work­ers protested, say­ing they were un­fairly tar­geted and that the Mathura Re­fin­ery was to be blamed (see ‘The trou­ble with the Trapez­ium’, Down To Earth, April 15, 1996). In its De­cem­ber 1996 ver­dict, SC said it would mon­i­tor ttz-re­lated projects and pro­pos­als. Th­ese in­clude: Set­ting up of hy­dro­c­racker unit in the Mathura Re­fin­ery Con­struc­tion of a 24 km Agra by­pass road to di­vert traf­fic pass­ing through the city Pro­vi­sion of un­in­ter­rupted power sup­ply in ttz to check use of pol­lut­ing diesel gen­er­a­tors Con­struc­tion of Gokul bar­rage on the Ya­muna in Mathura to im­prove sup­ply of drink­ing wa­ter and to bring life to the river Devel­op­ment of a green belt around Agra as rec­om­mended by neeri Cre­ation of a sep­a­rate cell un­der the Union en­vi­ron­ment min­istry to safe­guard and pre­serve the Taj, the city of Agra and na­tional her­itage mon­u­ments in ttz Shift­ing of em­po­ria and shops func­tion­ing within Taj premises Dec­la­ra­tion of Agra as her­itage city. The court closely mon­i­tored com­pli­ance of its or­ders. From 1993 to 1996,when Jus­tice Kuldip Singh was head­ing the Bench, hear­ings were held al­most on a weekly ba­sis.The court also de­puted an ami­cus cu­riae and ap­pointed court com­mit­tees to re­port on ground re­al­ity.

A pe­rusal of court or­ders and of­fi­cial doc­u­ments in the public domain in the Taj case shows that many court di­rec­tions, es­pe­cially those re­lat­ing to con­trol­ling air pol­lu­tion, have been com­plied with.But other di­rec­tions are yet to be fully im­ple­mented.

About 10 years af­ter the 1996 judge­ment, SC re­viewed the sta­tus of some of the projects it was mon­i­tor­ing and sought re­ports on Agra by­pass road, green belt and pro­vi­sion of un­in­ter­rupted elec­tric­ity sup­ply in its or­der dated Au­gust 7, 2006. The sta­tus of the com­pli­ance with var­i­ous

"Air qual­ity, waste and san­i­ta­tion prob­lems are not be­ing tack­led in a sys­tem­atic way" Ra­man "Most foundry units were shut in 2001. Work­ers who lost jobs did not get em­ploy­ment benefits" S M Khan­del­wal

SC di­rec­tions was fi­nally brought out by two re­ports pub­lished by neeri—an eval­u­a­tion of ttz projects in 2010 and a com­pre­hen­sive en­vi­ron­ment man­age­ment plan for ttz in 2013.Th­ese were pre­pared for the Agra Mu­nic­i­pal Cor­po­ra­tion and the Agra Devel­op­ment Author­ity re­spec­tively and throw light on the cur­rent sta­tus of ttz-re­lated projects.

Emis­sions con­trol: The units that were sup­posed to shut in 1997,as per the 1996 judge­ment, even­tu­ally closed in 2001.A Cen­tral Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Board (cpcb) newsletter of 2002 says that 187 units closed as a re­sult of the or­der, 53 started us­ing elec­tric­ity and 42 com­pressed nat­u­ral gas (cng), liq­ue­fied petroleum gas or elec­tric­ity.Ten fac­to­ries were ei­ther not found or were not us­ing any fuel.To mon­i­tor the gains in air qual­ity,the court,on Novem­ber 7,2000,ac­cepted cpcb’s rec­om­men­da­tions to set up four sta­tions in Agra.Th­ese be­came func­tional by 2002.

Mathura Re­fin­ery: Mean­while, the Mathura Re­fin­ery, which was the trig­ger for the court case, in­stalled a hy­dro­c­racker unit in 2000, ac­cord­ing to the web­site of In­dian Oil Cor­po­ra­tion, which runs the re­fin­ery. It also says that the switch to cng was achieved in a phased man­ner by 2005 (see ‘Or­der and dis­or­der’, p32).

Brick kilns: In an or­der dated May 10,1996,SC had asked for clo­sure of all brick kilns in the 20 km ra­dius of the Taj. The May 2013 re­port of neeri says 450 brick kilns in ttz have closed op­er­a­tions.“Now only the reg­is­tered units, which are be­yond the 20 km ra­dius of the Taj Ma­hal, re­main in ttz,”says Naz­imud­din,sci­en­tist with the small-scale in­dus­tries branch of cpcb.

Agra by­pass road: In the wake of SC or­ders on in­fra­struc­ture devel­op­ment in 1996, the Cabi­net Com­mit­tee on Eco­nomic Af­fairs ap­proved schemes worth ` 222.21 crore for ttz. One part of the Agra by­pass was con­structed at a cost of ` 26.91 crore. The by­pass is func­tional now.The city also spent ` 21.22 on im­prove­ment of roads.

Un­in­ter­rupted power sup­ply: SC had put great em­pha­sis on pro­vid­ing un­in­ter­rupted power sup­ply in ttz.The Agra au­thor­i­ties have im­ple­mented projects worth ` 39.09 crore for ru­ral ar­eas and Fateh­pur Sikri and ` 9.11 crore for Agra,says neeri’s eval­u­a­tion re­port of 2010.It also notes 2741 per cent re­duc­tion in suspended par­tic­u­late mat­ter,70-82 per cent re­duc­tion in con­cen­tra­tion of am­bi­ent SO2 and 46-74 per cent re­duc­tion in am­bi­ent ni­tro­gen diox­ide (NO2) dur­ing 2002 to 2003 over 1996-98 lev­els be­cause of im­proved power sup­ply. Agra Devel­op­ment Author­ity chair­per­son Pradeep Bhat­na­gar says the city is get­ting 19-20 hours of power sup­ply at present.“Round-the­clock sup­ply is not pos­si­ble be­cause there is a gen­eral power short­age in Ut­tar Pradesh,”he says.

Gokul bar­rage: Con­struc­tion of the bar­rage in Mathura,204 km down­stream of Wazirabad bar­rage in Delhi, was ini­ti­ated in 1990 and com­pleted in 2001; ` 92.20 crore was sanc­tioned for it. The project has helped aug­ment wa­ter sup­ply in the re­gion—73.5 mil­lion litres a day (mld) wa­ter is sup­plied to Mathura and 282 mld to Agra. How­ever,neeri’s 2010 re­port says the qual­ity of wa­ter is not good and the bar­rage has re­duced the flow of wa­ter down­stream, near the Taj.The re­port also men­tions wors­en­ing of river pol­lu­tion since the bar­rage be­came op­er­a­tional. Work

on the sec­ond bar­rage,8 km up­stream of the Taj Ma­hal, for in­creas­ing wa­ter on the stretch of the Ya­muna be­hind the Taj has not started yet.

Solid waste man­age­ment: The Union en­vi­ron­ment min­istry had re­leased ` 7.49 crore for im­prov­ing solid waste man­age­ment, as per neeri’s re­ports. Agra pro­duces over 700 tonnes of solid waste and the re­ports say there is slight im­prove­ment in garbage col­lec­tion, es­pe­cially around the Taj, but the city does not have a san­i­tary land­fill.The Down To Earth team that vis­ited Agra found dump­ing and burning of garbage in open sites just out­side the Taj.

Sew­er­age: Only 17 per cent (1,400 ha out of 8,360 ha) of the city is cov­ered by sew­er­age net­work, says neeri re­port of 2013. How­ever, ac­cord­ing to Agra au­thor­i­ties ,it has in­creased to 30 per cent af­ter im­ple­men­ta­tion of two phases of Ya­muna Ac­tion Plan and projects un­der Jawa­har­lal Nehru Na­tional Ur­ban Re­newal Mission. neeri says 254 mld waste­water flows through the city drains against the treat­ment ca­pac­ity of 90.25 mld. Only 10 per cent of sewage gets treated.

Green belt: On March 9 this year, SC stopped short of order­ing an in­quiry by the Cen­tral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (cbi) into com­pen­satory af­foresta­tion car­ried out by the Ut­tar Pradesh

for­est depart­ment. This hap­pened af­ter a court-ap­pointed com­mit­tee found that the state gov­ern­ment had sub­mit­ted wrong in­for­ma­tion about the num­ber of saplings planted in lieu of trees cut with court’s per­mis­sion since 1996 for devel­op­ment projects. The court wanted an in­quiry to as­cer­tain if funds had been mis­ap­pro­pri­ated and gave an op­por­tu­nity to the state to ex­plain. K K Singh, di­vi­sional for­est of­fi­cer (in charge) of Agra, says only 5,000 trees could be planted in place of 250,000 be­cause of non-re­lease of funds. There is no of­fi­cial sta­tus re­port on the green belt around the Taj Ma­hal.

Cen­tre’s cell for Taj preser­va­tion: The Court’s man­date to the Cen­tre to de­velop ttz in a sus­tain­able man­ner does not ap­pear to have made much head­way of late. The Union en­vi­ron­ment min­istry’s an­nual re­port for 2013-14 says only a to­ken of ` 1 lakh is avail­able for its Taj Pro­tec­tion Mission and that the Ut­tar Pradesh gov­ern­ment had been asked to for­mu­late fresh pro­pos­als to seek pro­vi­sion of more funds un­der the 12th Five Year Plan. “Till date no com­pre­hen­sive pro­posal has been re­ceived from Ut­tar Pradesh gov­ern­ment, ”says the re­port.

Re­lo­ca­tion of em­po­ria: There are no shops or em­po­ria func­tion­ing within the Taj Ma­hal premises at present but some shops on the eastern and west­ern side re­main to be shifted, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion with AD N Rao, coun­sel for SC’s Cen­tral Em­pow­ered Com­mit­tee on for­est mat­ters.

Im­pact on air qual­ity: The court-mon­i­tored ac­tions have had a no­tice­able ef­fect on Agra’s air qual­ity. Ac­cord­ing to neeri’s 2013 re­port, an­nual av­er­age con­cen­tra­tion of SO2 was in the range of 4-9 μg/m3, NO2 was 18-23 μg/m3 and PM10 was 133-167 μg/m3 in ttz be­tween 2002 and 2010. Th­ese are be­low the cpcb’s per­mis­si­ble norms for SO2 (20 μg/m3) and NO2 (30 μg/m3).

Emerg­ing threat

While sul­phur and ni­tro­gen emis­sions in Agra may be un­der con­trol, the level of PM10 is still more than dou­ble the pre­scribed limit. This may be be­cause of ris­ing num­ber of ve­hi­cles .Ac­cord­ing to the re­gional trans­port author­ity data, the num­ber of ve­hi­cles (two wheel­ers, cars, buses and heavy ve­hi­cles) in Agra dis­trict, has nearly tripled from about 326,000 in 2002 to over 915,000 this year.Add to this the few thou­sand trucks that pass through the city ev­ery day via the Na­tional High­way-2 , the tourist buses and cars that bring in 20,000-odd vis­i­tors to Taj Ma­hal and the ve­hic­u­lar emis­sions would work out much higher. neeri’s 2013 re­port men­tions that over 48,000 diesel gen­er­a­tors also con­trib­ute to the city’s pol­lu­tion.

Anand Ku­mar Anand, Ut­tar Pradesh Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Board’s (uppcb) re­gional of­fi­cer for Agra, ad­mits ve­hic­u­lar emis­sions are a ma­jor source of pol­lu­tion along with un­or­gan­ised in­dus­tries, dust, con­struc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties and biomass burning.But there is no way of know­ing the per­cent­age con­tri­bu­tion of each of th­ese.No es­ti­mates are avail­able with ei­ther cpcb or uppcb. What’s more, the pol­lu­tion con­trol au­thor­i­ties do not mon­i­tor PM2.5 (par­tic­u­late mat­ter of 2.5 mi­cron or less) in the city, which would help as­sess ve­hic­u­lar emis­sions.

“The sec­ond gen­er­a­tion chal­lenge in Taj Trapez­ium de­mands as­sess­ment of all sources of pol­lu­tion and more strin­gent ac­tion not just around the Taj Ma­hal, but across the air­shed of Agra and be­yond, ”says An­u­mita Roy­chowd­hury, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Delhi-based non-profit, Cen­tre for Science and En­vi­ron­ment.

Flow of wa­ter and pol­lu­tion in the Ya­muna have wors­ened near the Taj since the con­struc­tion of Gokul bar­rage in Mathura

Un­in­ter­rupted elec­tric­ity sup­ply in Taj Trapez­ium is es­sen­tial to re­duce the use of diesel gen­er­a­tors

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