The Goa State Pollution Control Board’s move to undertake an extensive environmental audit of industrial units, casinos and 1,000-odd units, including hotels and shacks, is a welcome move against the backdrop of consistent violations by establishments that have made a mockery of systemic checks and balances.
Against the backdrop of the enormity of violations where people have been consistently raising queries and protesting, this audit pales out because the Pollution Control Board has failed to put deterrents in place over the years.
The Pollution Control Board has been facing flak on several counts, from not being able to monitor industrial pollution to keeping a check on establishments that have been consistently violating environmental norms. For example, the people of Cuncolim have been on a warpath over pollution at Cuncolim Industrial Estate and have recently organised a protest march to the industrial estate drawing attention to the acute air and water pollution caused by the industrial units.
The glaring reality of pollution was right there for everyone to see as untreated water was flowing into the adjoining rivulets contaminating the water bodies. Earlier, fish meal plants and fish processing units were found channelling their discharge into bore wells.
That’s not all. The Central Pollution Control Board has consistently maintained over the past few years that water samples at tourist-centric beaches of Goa like Miramar, Calangute, Morjim, Tiracol, Motor, Baina, Velsao, Colva and Galgibaga are highly polluted and infested with disease-causing pathogens. The samples showed a high concentration of faecal coliform and biochemical oxygen demand indicating the presence of pathogens and bacteria in water. The primary reason for such pollution of beach water is attributed to the disposal of untreated or partially treated raw sewage into the sea.
The Pollution Control Board has been undertaking periodic audits of business establishments to ascertain whether industries and units have complied with the rules and regulations. GSPCB had maintained that the audit would help to understand lacunae so that appropriate decisions could be taken. The question is, the ground situation has not changed significantly.
It is baffling how businesses are operating in contravention of protocols and violating environmental laws. Several business establishments have been operating without the pollution board’s consent. In a recent case an Arambol hotel, which came under the High Court scanner, was found to be operating without any clearances, including consent from the GSPCB.
Audits in the past have not helped the cause, either. There has been very little change visible on the ground, and the establishment and industrial units have resorted to their old ways once strictures are eased. The current exercise that is underway is likely to take two years or may be even more, and a lot could be undone by the time the audit process is complete.
Although the audit exercise is welcome, it may be ineffective in the absence of a mechanism to ensure that compliance is adhered to. Sealing and unsealing are part and parcel of a system and do not suggest the effectiveness of an audit.
People coming out in protest against environmental violations exposes inherent failures in the system. The GSPCB, while scanning for shortcomings through the audits, must also devise a mechanism to bind erring industries and establishments to a set protocol. Repeat offences only indicate that pollution board checks are not taken seriously.