The celebrations in Navi Mumbai on being ranked third in a cleanliness survey have been brought to an abrupt halt by the National Green Tribunal’s stinging criticism of the satellite city’s poor air quality and environment degradation.
Responding to claims of success made by the City and Industrial Development Corporation (CIDCO), Navi Mumbai’s town planning agency; and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) in tackling air pollution and protecting the city’s green cover, the tribunal put forth a question that both the agencies don’t have an answer to – how come Navi Mumbai still stinks?
In observations that are bound to embarrass both CIDCO and MPCB, the tribunal has said the ambient air quality in Navi Mumbai is below par and unpardonable damage has been caused to its green cover, including mangrove forests.
Trashing a 2010 action plan for controlling pollution set in motion by MPCB, the tribunal said the plan was clearly ‘not working’ and ordered its comprehensive review in four weeks’ time. The tribunal has also sought a monthly report on the plan’s progress.
Apart from demanding that steps be taken to install ambient air quality monitoring stations in critically polluted areas within six months, the tribunal has also formed a committee under the chairmanship of chief conservator of forest (mangroves cell) to ‘assess and verify’ the extent of damage to mangroves in the area.
The petition was filed by Janardhan Patil, president of Talavali Village in Navi Mumbai and Yashwant Patil, a fellow villager, in 2006. The petition had complained of a constant stench hanging over the city and blamed the presence of large chemical and petro-chemical industrial units for it.
The petition had also pointed out that certain green zones marked in earlier development plans had been converted into residential zones without considering the environmental impact. The petitioners had also brought to the tribunal’s notice the absence of a green belt separating the residential areas from the industries, directly exposing residents to pollutants.
While CIDCO and MPCB told the tribunal that under the 2010 plan 57 major industrial units were shut and all clean-air parameters, except presence of dust particles, were met, the tribunal pointed out that according MPCB’s own data on its website pollution in Navi Mumbai is on the rise. “During the hearing it was revealed that the air pollution data present on their website indicated higher level of pollutants,” the tribunal’s judicial member V R Kingaonkar and expert member Dr Ajay Deshpande wrote. The tribunal said Navi Mumbai does not have any facilities to monitor pollution nor does it have labs to carry out tests. “It is necessary that such regulatory bodies should be equipped and capable of monitoring all the parameters prescribed. It is observed that samples are neither taken in the presence of officials, nor is it clear that which agency is engaged by MPCB to test them,” he tribunal said.