Effective pollution control and mitigation are highly cost-intensive
Published on : Monday 03-05-2021
By : Editorial Team
Saumyaditya Bose PhD, Proprietor and Freelancer, Bose Consultancy Services.
Are Indian environmental regulations too stringent and hamper industrialisation by stalling projects?
There are two sides to this argument. From an industry perspective, numerous compliances, complicated laws and overlapping regulations are critical roadblocks to ease of doing business in India and the need of the hour is to switch from a traditional command and control environmental policy approach to a more efficient business-friendly approach. On the flip side, environmental think tanks, activists, and watchdogs keep raising red flags regarding unhindered industrial pollution and reckless defiance of environmental norms due to inept pollution regulatory institutions, weak compliance vigilance mechanisms, historical lack of political will towards strengthening and strict enforcement of the environmental legal framework and trade-off of environmental priorities for pro-industry ease-of-doing business policies.
Is the menace of pollution treated with the seriousness it deserves?
India is on a path of rapid development in its quest to graduate to an economic powerhouse. Rapid industrialisation, as evidenced by the post-World War Two developed world and recently China, led to humongous power demand and resulted in severe environmental degradation as collateral damage. India is also severely at risk of climate change-related acute and chronic negative effects and as a developing country with a surging population density, must delicately balance its energy security and sustainable development agendas to safeguard its strategic geopolitical position and interests. Based on the Yale University EPI 2020 results, a lot needs to be done from India’s sustainable development perspective; however, India has taken some key policy steps in the right direction assuming enthusiastic adoption and implementation from all key stakeholders.
Are high costs and lax monitoring mechanisms responsible for the shoddy implementation of pollution control measures?
Effective pollution control and mitigation are highly cost-intensive. Examples include: 1) CEMS/CEQMS, now mandatory for highly polluting industries, common pollution treatment facilities and grossly polluting industries are complex and expensive technologies with significant challenges and risks associated with implementation; and 2) The greatest user-level adoption barrier for ZLD technologies is the high CAPEX and OPEX costs. Central and State governments should urgently strengthen and upgrade the compliance regulatory infrastructure including – increasing SPCB manpower, procuring the latest monitoring equipment, leapfrogging to automated documentation and reporting systems, adding transportation facilities, and ensuring regular capacity building.
Can automation bring more efficiency in pollution control measures?
Automatic effluent discharge data collection and real-time analysis are critical for effective pollution control and non-compliance deterrence. CEMS/CEQMS steps in the right direction, however, long-term sustainability and efficacy are only possible through capacity building of all stakeholders in SOPs for technology selection, installation, operation and maintenance, data handling and interpretation. IoT, Big Data, ML and AI should be explored to help India leapfrog to a more efficient environmental regulatory compliance environment.
Waste is also a source of energy – is there room for more efficient and less polluting waste disposal?
Industry needs practically designed environmental policies utilising market incentives to encourage technological innovation and reduction of production waste. The water-energy nexus/crises need urgent innovative synergetic solutions and new business models such as ‘Water as a Service’. The central government should champion a big push for such innovative models under Start-up India/Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan/Make in India/Swachh Bharat Mission/Jal Jeevan Mission, etc., to proliferate low-cost renewable energy-based ZLD systems.
How can the country ensure a cleaner environment while also boosting manufacturing activity?
India’s sustainable development narrative is currently torn between the established command and control approach versus the need for business-friendly market-based environmental tools. In summary, the key challenges and opportunities lie in the development of a lean and efficient environmental regulatory framework coupled with capable, empowered, equipped regulators and an effective compliance enforcement mechanism.
Dr Saumyaditya Bose has over 14 years of cumulative research and consulting experience in USA and India – including over 10 years of environmental consulting experience in contaminated site management/water for industry, and more than a year of management consulting/developmental sector experience in circularity/waste to value, clean energy/low carbon transition, and climate change. Before joining environmental consulting, he was a postdoctoral scholar at UC Berkeley, USA. He holds a PhD from Virginia Tech, USA; an MTech and MSc from IIT Bombay; and a BSc from the University of Calcutta. He has a Certificate of Business Excellence from UC Berkeley, USA. He is a Fellow of the Institution of Engineers India and an elected member of the Geological Society of India. He has authored/co-authored many peer-reviewed articles, posters, talks, best practices, etc.