‘There are 12,000 polluting industries, over 27cr registered vehicles in Punjab’

‘There are 12,000 polluting industries, over 27cr registered vehicles in Punjab’

TNN | Jun 4, 2021, 06.28 AM IST

Ahead of the World Environment Day on June 5, Punjab’s principal secretary for environment Anurag Verma shares efforts being made by the state government to adapt to the changing climatic conditions and to check air, water and land pollution, with TOI’s Sanjeev Verma.

Has the Punjab government come up with a climate policy? What steps are being initiated to adapt to the inevitable changes in the climate?

Our state has been among few proactive ones to come up with the regional planning soon after the formulation of the National Action Plan for Climate Change. Punjab State’s Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC 1.0) was the first policy instrument prepared in 2014 to accelerate adaptation and mitigation actions. The state has made investment to the tune of Rs 2,000 crore under SAPCC 1.0 under the state’s missions on green Punjab, sustainable agriculture, water and sustainable habitat. It has mobilized additional climate finance of Rs 87.7 crore under various projects to build state’s resilience. Steps have also been initiated to revise SAPCC in line with sustainable development goals (SDGs) and India’s nationally determined contributions (INDCs) towards climate change.

Punjab being an agriculture-driven economy especially focuses on agriculture and livestock. Focus areas include promoting crop diversification as per the agro-climatic zones and sustainable management of agriculture crop residue. Recently, the CM has inaugurated the first-of-its-kind paddy straw based briquette unit at Kalbruchan village in Patiala.

For building adaptive capacity of small and marginal farmers, the state has initiated efforts for managing heat stress to ensure sustainable productivity of livestock in a climate change scenario. Climate resilient cattle sheds have been developed and demonstrated. Encouraging results of significant reduction in milk loss are being experienced. Model is ready for pan-India dissemination. Pilot launch of first-of-its-kind weather linked insurance product has recently been done in three districts — Bathinda, Ludhiana and Tarn Taran — under the project supported by the Union government. With this, Punjab becomes the pioneer state in India and at global level offering a livestock insurance product that goes beyond mortality risks covered under available livestock insurance products.

How many sewage treatment plants (STPs) do we have and how many more are planned?

Punjab generates 2,111 million litres per day (MLD) urban sewage. Considering future projections, 242 STPs of 2,551 MLD capacity are proposed to be provided. Of this, 123 STPs of 1,737 MLD capacity have already been installed. Remaining 119 STPs of 814.55 MLD capacity are at various stages of planning and construction. These STPs are targeted to be commissioned by December 31, 2023. Total 20 of them are likely to be commissioned by December 31 this year, 54 by December 31, 2022, and remaining 45 by December 31, 2023.

How many brick kilns are operational in Punjab? Has the state ensured compliance of the NGT directions to introduce technology to cut emissions from them?

There are about 2,800 brick kilns operating in Punjab, out of which more than 75% have adopted the induced draft technology with zig-zag brick setting. New technology not only reduces the pollution load considerably, but also decreases the fuel consumption and increases the brick production. The Punjab State Council for Science and Technology (PSCST) and the Central Building Research Institute (CBRI), Roorkee have played the role of technology provider. The kilns which failed to switch over to new technology by February 1, 2020, have to pay the environment compensation at Rs 25,000 per month for the period they operated without implementing new technology. No brick kiln without this technology is being allowed to operate by the PPCB.

There are over 14 lakh tubewells in Punjab and the Central Ground Water Board has warned that at least 103 out of the total 138 blocks are overexploited?What steps are being taken by the government to arrest the depleting groundwater levels?

The government has constituted the Punjab Water Regulation and Development Authority (PWRDA) under the Punjab Water Resources (Regulation and Management) Act, 2020. The Authority is mandated to regulate the water resources of the state for ensuring their judicious, equitable and sustainable utilisation and management. It is providing ad interim permission for groundwater extraction to industrial and commercial units in the state. Further, the department of water resources is also in process of preparing a state-level water conservation and management plan and has also engaged an Israel-based company Mekorot for this purpose. The state notifies the date of sowing of paddy, promotes drip irrigation practices and builds water conservation infrastructure. PPCB is pursuing the major water intensive industries for adopting recycling and reuse of processed water. In addition, maintenance of flow in the rivers of the state is being pursued for improving the groundwater levels.

How much has Punjab succeeded in reducing stubble burning in the last four years?

The Punjab government is committed to taking effective measures and to provide alternatives to the farmers for reducing stubble burning. Although the active fire incidents during paddy harvesting have not shown reduction this year, the burnt area has reduced by more than 5% compared to last year. There is a notable decrease in fire incidents during the current wheat harvesting season. The information, education and communication (IEC) campaign launched by the state government has brought the issue in focus and farmers are aware about their responsibility towards the environment. The government has also provided 75,355 crop residue management machines and established 21,128 custom hiring centres (CHCs) for such machinery during the last three years. During the last two years, legal complaints have been filed against 1,785 defaulters and environment compensation of Rs 10 crore has been imposed. Also red entries have been made in the revenue record of defaulting farmers.

By when can we expect complete rejuvenation of Buddha Nallah and holy Kali Bein rivulet?

The Ludhiana municipal corporation has installed five STPs with a total 466 MLD capacity. Out of these, 48 MLD STP at Jamalpur is lying defunct. The total effective treatment capacity of STPs at Ludhiana is 418 MLD. A comprehensive project of Rs 650 crore has been sanctioned for rejuvenation of Budha Nallah in which two additional STPs of 225 MLD capacity at Jamalpur and 60 MLD at Balloke are proposed to be installed by December 31, 2022. Out of three common effluent treatment plants (CETPs) for dyeing clusters, 15 MLD CETP has been made operational and remaining two of 40 MLD and 50 MLD are likely to be commissioned within three months. The state government or PPCB is also pursuing the special purpose vehicles (SPVs) of these CETP to make proposals for utilisation of treated water for irrigation. Also, CETPs for small scale electroplating industries and pickling units are operational with zero liquid discharge technology. These CETPs are catering to 1,600 electroplating and 500 pickling units. PPCB has been able to effectively disconnect the discharge of these units into the sewer or Budha Nallah. A scheme for providing dilution to Budha Nallah from Sirhind Canal is underway and likely to be completed by June 30 which will have significant impact on the ecology of Budha Nallah and Sutlej river.

In Kali Bein, there is no discharge of any industrial effluent, only waste water of towns and villages. STP for treatment of waste water of 43.1 MLD for Kapurthala, Bholath, Begowal, part of Sultanpur Lodhi, Dasuya, Tanda and Sham Chaurasi are installed and operational. Total 70 villages of district Kapurthala and Hoshiarpur were identified discharging waste water into Holy Bein, out of which in 52 villages ponds along with an irrigation network system is provided. The discharge of the remaining 18 village ponds is being diverted shortly. STPs for treatment of wastewater at 13 MLD for Kartarpur, Nadala, Sultanpur Lodhi, village Rawal and its colonies are under proposal and timeline for installation and commissioning of these STPs is June 30, 2022.

What is the total number of air polluting units in Punjab? Also how many vehicles are registered in the state?

There are about 12,000 air polluting units in Punjab which are using varied type of fuels — primarily biomass (25,000 TPD), coal (10,000 TPD), pet coke (4,000-4,500 TPD), liquid fuels (2,000-2,500 TPD) and natural gas or LPG (1,500 TPD) and other miscellaneous fuels like wood, cow dung cake, briquettes (1,000 TPD). Besides, 65,000-70,000 TPD of coal is also being used by the thermal plants in the state.

All such units are provided with necessary pollution control devices, wherever required. For regulating the use of pet coke and furnace oil, having high sulphur content, the state government in consultation with PPCB, DECC and other stakeholder departments is preparing a comprehensive fuel policy. Cleaner fuels like CNG, PNG, LPG, biogas are being promoted. Research and development works for biomass based fuels is also being done for utilising paddy straw to reduce the menace of stubble burning. Establishment of co-generation plants and briquettes manufacturing units are steps in this direction.

There are over 27.06 crore vehicles registered in Punjab till date. The state has taken several measures like improvement of road networks, intersections, removal of blind spots, conversion of three-wheelers from diesel to cleaner fuel. A statewide network is being laid and dispensing points added for providing CNG to vehicles.

Following NGT directions, how many units in Punjab using coal have converted their reheating furnace to PNG? What action has been taken against violators?

Earlier, the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change has declared Mandi Gobindgarh and Khanna as a critical polluted area (CPA). The government had prepared a ‘Clean Air Action Plan’ in 2019 for Mandi Gobindgarh. Under this plan, about 200 rolling mills and 100 other industrial units are to be converted to PNG. 60 units have already switched over resulting in reduction of pollution load equivalent to 100 quintals of coal per day. On the completion of this project, the total pollution load equivalent to 1,000 quintals of coal per day is to be reduced. The remaining defaulting industrial units are being pushed in the area of Mandi Gobindgarh and Khanna. In total, 220 units so far have signed MoU for converting to PNG.

How much has the forest cover increased in Punjab in the last four years?

As per the data maintained by the forest department, the total forest and tree cover in the state is 6.87% of geographical area. Tree cover includes trees outside the forest area. As per India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2019, Punjab forest cover is 1,848.63 sq km, which is 3.67% of the state’s geographical area. In terms of forest canopy density classes, the state has 8sq km under very dense forest, 800.97sq km under moderately dense forest and 1,039.66sq km under open forest. Forest cover in the state has increased by 11.63sq km as compared to the previous assessment reported in ISFR 2017. Main reasons for the increase in forest cover in the state are plantation drives and conservation activities.

Illegal sand mining in Punjab rivers has been a big threat to the biodiversity and resulted in flooding. What steps are being taken to restore river banks?

Indeed, illegal sand mining in rivers of Punjab has become a big threat to biodiversity and has led to erosion of river banks. As per the NGT directions, the department of water resources and mining is limiting the number of stone crushers as per carrying capacity of legitimate source of raw material and taking stringent action taken against the stone crushers not having accountable sources of raw materials by amending the Punjab Minor Mineral Rules, 2013, and the Crusher Policy, 2015. Meanwhile, the drainage wing of the department of water resources is taking measures to prevent the soil erosion of river banks through de-silting of river beds, construction of spur or studs and revetment of boulder stones.


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