The South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP), in its recent report, has pointed out serious environmental degradation, in the proposed garbage dumping facilities at Barave, Umbarde and Banda, very close to the Ulhas river, being set up by the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC).
SANDRP observed that the State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) and the State Expert Appraisal Committee (SEAC), responsible for the protection of state environment, had performed dismally. "They have been functioning in callous and non-transparent manner and have zero rejection rate," said an official.
Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) serves as a secretariat for SEAC and SEIAA. Fees and allowances for the committee members are paid by MPCB. But the appointment of members on SEAC is undemocratic and wages paid by the MPCB are so poor that hardly any retired experts are interested in joining. Besides, the meetings of the SEAC are held in Mantralaya instead of being held in MPCB office.
In its report, SANDRP has stated that the KDMC intends to discontinue open garbage dumping grounds at Adharwadi and establish three scientifically developed facilities. Solid waste treatment plant at Barave will be designed to process 200 tons per day (TPD), while Umbarde plant will handle 350 TPD. A 10.2-hectare area, located at 500 meters from Ulhas River, has been reserved for these plants in the Development Plan. Among the three plants, the Barave plant will be very close that is about 200 meters from the river. The proximity to the river is such that in absence of necessary precautions the river will be heavily contaminated by leaching of waste.
In fact, in May 2016, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had ordered the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Ministry of Environment and Forests to take action against the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) for failing to prevent untreated industrial waste from being released into the Ulhas River.
Amruta Pradhan, a Co-ordinator of SANDRP, has also pointed out the clearances given by the SEIAA, to some of the sugar factories even during the severe drought last year. The authority approved Terms Of References (TOR) from Ministry of Environment and Forest, in case of following: M/s. Gangakhed Sugar & Energy Ltd. Gangakhed, Parbhani (modernisation and expansion of sugar unit from 6,000 (Tonnes crushed per day) TCD to 8,500 TCD; M/s. Shri. Dnyaneshwar Sahakari Sakhar Karichana Ltd. Nevase, Ahmednagar (expansion of sugar unit from 5,000 to 7,000 TCD); M/s. Shree Datta Shetkari Sahakari Sakhar Karkhana Ltd. Shirol, Kolhapur (expansion of sugar unit from 7,500 to 9,000 TCD and M/s Kukadi Sahakari Sakhar Karkhana, Shrigonda, Ahmednagar (expansion of sugar unit from 3,500 to 5,500 TCD & the capacity of the power unit (co-generation) from 12 MW to 27 MW. Besides following, factories were recommended for environmental clearance: M/s. Bhima Sahakari Sakhar Karkhana Ltd. Mohol, Solapur (expansion cum modernization from 2,500 TCD to 5,000 TCD) and M/s. Shri Chhatrapati Co-operative Sugar Factory Ltd. Bhavani Nagar, Indapur, Pune (expansion & modernization of Sugar Unit of capacity 3,500 TCD to 6,500 TCD along with Co-generation of 18 MW).
SANDRP has also noted that clusters of sand mining blocks not assessed for cumulative impacts and in almost all cases there are more than one blocks proposed along the same river in the same tehsil, at times even in the same village. Though the area of individual cluster ranges from say 5hectares to 15 hectares, their combined area at times could easily add up to 25-30 hectares, at times even more. For example, in the 116thmeeting of SEAC there were 24 mining block proposals submitted for Pune District on Mula-Mutha, Bhima, Nira and Kukdi rivers. The total area of these proposals was whopping 100 hectares. Around 45 hectares of mining blocks were proposed in Daund Tehsil on Mula-Mutha river alone and another 45 hectares were proposed on Bhima river in Daund.
“Though these projects were approved in a bunch they were not assessed for the cumulative impacts. Each block was considered separately for approval. One can imagine the impact of mining 45 hectares along the river in single tehsil. It is bound to affect the sediment flow of the river, overall geomorphology and also the aquatic life. However, the projects are approved with extremely generic remarks about their impacts. For example, excavation would not affect the water table and groundwater levels in areas up to a radius of 500 metresfrom the proposed mines. There are no riverine structures within 200 m of sand-ghats. The Committee considered all aspects of Environmental Impact and decided to recommend the proposals,” said Amruta Pradhan.
“There have also been inconsistencies in the river dredging proposals submitted for the environmental clearance. The proposals for the dredging to clear navigational waterways and the channels of the creeks and rivers, were submitted by the collectors of Raigad, Thane and Ratnagiri. However, in case of Raigad and Thane the Committee observed that there were significant inconsistencies in the dimensions prescribed for dredging,” Pradhan added.
These projects were approved in a bunch they were not assessed for the cumulative impacts. One can imagine the impact of mining 45 hectares along the river in single tehsil. It is bound to affect the sediment flow of the river, overall geomorphology and also the aquatic life. However, the projects are approved with extremely generic remarks about their impacts.
— Amruta Pradhan, a Co-ordinator of SANDRP