Curbing pollution, job loss: Holistic plan a must for green industry - The Tribune India

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Curbing pollution, job loss

Holistic plan a must for green industry

Curbing pollution, job loss

After stringent pollution control norms came into effect in the National Capital Region (NCR) on October 1, a predictable chain of events followed — thousands of industrial units that have not switched to green fuels have been shut down, and lakhs of workers are facing the prospect of unemployment and migration. The situation is particularly dire in Haryana, where 47 per cent of the total geographical area falls under the NCR. Reports from Panipat say that close to 500 factories running on coal have shut operations — leading to a daily loss of Rs 100 crore — after they failed to switch to green fuels in compliance with the directions of the Commission for Air Quality Management (CAQM). Similar stories of non-compliance with norms, shutdown and unemployment have come from Faridabad, Ballabhgarh and Gurugram in the state, apart from cities or towns in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan that come under the NCR umbrella.

Unfortunately, despite warnings, inspections by flying squads and risk of closure, only a fraction of the industries falling under the NCR have switched to green fuels such as piped natural gas (PNG). Owners of units and industry associations have cited three reasons for non-compliance — expenses involved in the structural modifications needed in their units, lack of the requisite equipment and the high cost of PNG. They have been demanding subsidies on the cost of conversion and PNG and a reduction in GST. While government officials say the process to switch from coal to PNG was initiated soon after the CAQM order was issued in June, it seems the industrialists were expecting an extension in the deadline.

With our cities regularly topping the list of the world’s most polluted cities, reduction in pollution and the use of fossil fuels must be treated as a national emergency. To achieve this without massive job loss is a big challenge, and it cannot be left to industrialists and business owners to deal with. The problem requires a long-term, holistic solution that addresses the interests of all the stakeholders. It’s in the interest of the nation to create a clean fuel infrastructure and make it available to the industry, which too must adopt a progressive, far-sighted approach and adapt quickly.

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