There is no let-up in magnitude of industrial pollution in Visakhapatnam, the largest city in Andhra Pradesh due to poor enforcement of anti-pollution laws. Despite talk of containing pollution to bare minimum and strictures passed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) from time to time, the ground reality remains a matter of grave concern.
The situation is more dangerous than other industrial cities because of the fact that for the residents, there will not be any escape route in the event of a major accident as the city is surrounded by hills on three sides and sea in one side. The spoon-shaped topography makes the city more susceptible to casualties. During Hudhud Cyclone in October 2014, several process plants had to go for forcible shutdown.
“Visakhapatnam has been categorised by the Central Pollution Control Board as one of the heavily polluted industrial clusters. The city’s atmosphere has aerosols concentration detected by satellite imagery,” says social activist and former bureaucrat E.A.S. Sarma. He told that the AP Pollution Control Board, under political pressure, has become dysfunctional and the polluting industrial units such as HPCL, the two ports and Jawaharlal Nehru Pharma City have become huge sources of toxic pollution impacting the public health through air and water. Citizens have had to approach NGT and other agencies to get relief but the government has not conducted itself responsibly, he said.
The city and its neighbourhood is home to several major industries including Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, Visakhapatnam and Gangavaram Ports, HPCL Visakh Refinery, Coromandel Fertilizers, Hinduja National Power Company, NTPC Simhadri Thermal Power Station, Hindustan Shipyard Ltd, Heavy Plate and Vessels Plant and JNPC. The CPCB had given ‘critically polluted’ cluster tag to Visakhapatnam in 1990 and following its observation that there was improvement in emission standards, it removed the tag a few years later thus withdrawing ending the moratorium on investments on Greenfield and Brownfield industries.
The concrete jungle culture and blatant violation of restrictions introduced in Coastal Regulation Zone from 1991 have led to frequent beach erosion between Visakhapatnam and Bheemunipatnam coast raising concern over the safety of beachside constructions. “We want strict enforcement of pollution control measures and stringent action against erring industries causing groundwater contamination, releasing of toxins and discharging of untreated effluents in the sea,” said Samata (an advocacy group) founder Rebbaprada Ravi.
Source: THE HINDU