Hardik Shah, IAS, Member secretary, Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), is a clear-headed person. In a free wheeling interview with The Sunday Guardian, he talks about the innovative ways in which the state is implementing effective and safe disposal of industrial waste.
Q. What are the plans of GPCB when it comes to the disposal of huge quantities of industrial hazardous wastes?
A. Due to the state’s proactive approach towards promoting industry, increased industrialisation, urbanization and population has resulted in generation of enormous quantum wastes every year causing a serious concern for its effective & safe disposal. Therefore, it was a big challenge to GPCB being a regulatory body to manage these wastes to also keep the balance between environmental protection and economic interests. I must also mention here that the uncontrolled waste disposal causes results in bad tconsequences for human health . So we have resorted to modern incineration plants and secure landfills which have high investment, operating costs and need qualified personnel. In this context, I must emphasis that the GPCB has also played the role of facilitator and not police, without diluting its regulatory role. We have encouraged a couple of cement plants to accept the wastes to co-process in their cement kiln. The use of wastes as raw materials as filler in place of limestone, use of calorific value of wastes to save the fossil fuels and utilization of hazardous wastes for co-processing in the cement kilns makes a win-win situation.
Q. What are the benefits achieved on adoption of e-governance in the environment sector?
A. Since 1974, the GPCB is working as a regulator to prevent and control pollution. The conventional approach since then has been “Command and Control”, which attached the tag of red-tapism and empire building. Further, the manual and paper based working methodology of the Board could not match the pace of rapid industrialization in the State thus adversely affecting the main focus of pollution control and environment protection.
The e-Governance initiative of the GPCB which has evolved over a period of 6 to 7 years is a web based application jointly developed by NIC (National Informatics Center – Gujarat) and the GPCB named as eXtended Green Node (XGN) to provide an IT-based solution to help the GPCB in effective and qualitative implementation of Environmental Laws. I must add here that today, a single point contact through GPCB- E- Governance portal named XGN resulting in accountable, effective, speedy and transparent decision making tools for not only the GPCB but also for industries/ HCUs, auditors, facility operators, complainers and the public at a large.
The implementation of e-Governance in Environmental Governance has been appreciated at National level for which GPCB has received various awards and appreciations. Having implementation in Gujarat it has also been implemented in six more States. Recently, GPCB added feather in its cap having won prestigious National Award for e-Governance for its e-Governance initiative-online system popularly known as XGN (eXtended Green Node) in incremental innovation category with gold ranking.
Q. What actions have been initiated for improvement in the environmental performance and enhanced credibility of the Board?
A. We are committed towards continual improvement of THE Board’s performance. We have obtained ISO Certifications through BIS and have our quality policy. Obtaining & implementing ISO certificates gives the better credibility, enhanced status, image building, uniform procedure, proper documentation, improved work condition and better awareness, increased motivation, higher efficiency etc. I must add here that the the Central laboratory of GPCB and Six regional laboratories are accredited with National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratory (NABL) which provides confidence in quality and technical competence of testing and calibration in laboratories.
Q. Is there any promotional scheme for the industries adopting enhanced environmental quality principles?
A. As per the regular policy of the Board, Consent to operate (CCA) is being issued normally for five years, but to avail special promotion for quality assurance, consent is being issued for one year more. This has been done to the industries holding ISO certificates and also consent for seven years (5+2) on receipt of fees on fast track to the industry accredited with “Responsible Care management System”. Further, during last year it was decided to grant consent (CTE-Consent to establish) for a period of seven years o focus mainly on quality monitoring.
Q. To cope with vibrancy and entrepreneurial spirit of Gujarat, what actions were taken to prioritise protection of the environment besides industrial development?
A. We are equally interested in managing environmental aspects with the best possible manner besides industrialization. The Medium and Small Scale industrial units (MSIs) have very important role to play in the industrial development of the State. At the same time, they have many challenges to establish and operate individual environment management system or effluent treatment plant due to their limited size, scale, financial and technical constraints. To facilitate development of MSIs, the concept of Common Environment Infrastructure has been adopted to achieve satisfactory treatment and disposal of waste through collective efforts.
Further to protect the environment of the State the concept of Common Environment Infrastructure in the public partnership mode is promulgated. The State is the pioneer in setting up of Common Environment Infrastructures as under:
The GPCB is also playing a crucial role in the adoption of CP/CT, green practices and environment audit etc at industry level, strengthening of Common Environmental Infrastructure Facility etc via facilitating them through systematic approaches and also getting various financial incentives/ assistances which are already well integrated with new Industrial Policy of the state government.