Days after the Haryana government issued a new draft notification to control air pollution from local stone crushing units, experts say the proposed action is inadequate, and falls short of meeting the actual goal.
Riddled with non-compliance of existing environmental norms, stone crushing sector is a significant source of air pollution. In its latest notification, the Haryana State Pollution Control has revised the existing siting criteria for new units as well pollution control measures they need to adopt.
The state has now pushed for laying of tiles in the entire area of the unit and metaled roads within premises to improve dust collection. It has also called for limiting the suspended particulate matter (SPM) to less than 600 micrograms per cubic metre at any point between three to 10 meters from any process equipment of a stone crushing unit.
While the government has tightened the existing norms to some extent, it has apparently faltered on others. According to New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), the notification fails to correct the anomalies of older guidelines, one of which includes stricter monitoring. Many units purposely reduce the operational capacity of plants to go scot-free during an inspection to meet the prescribed pollution limits, say experts. Installing ambient monitoring stations both in the upwind and downwind directions of the crusher zone would have addressed the problem, they say.
What Are The Concerns?
Stone crusher zones are established in Haryana only after considering the availability of raw materials, and to check illegal mining. However, the new notification allows crusher units to be located even outside the existing or approved zones, except in cases of Faridabad, Palwal and Gurugram. This is likely to make inspection difficult and cumbersome, say experts.
“Collectively, inspecting units inside a crusher zone are more practical than inspecting individual units that are scattered,” said Nivit K Yadav, CSE programme director (industrial pollution). “The Haryana government should review the siting criteria in the draft notification and take steps to prohibit stone crushers from operating outside crusher zones.”
Another major concern is that it reduces the minimum distance of a stone crusher from places of importance. For instance, the minimum distance of a stone crusher from a national or state highway has now been reduced from 1 km to 0.5 km; the distance from a municipal corporation has been shortened from 3 km to 2 km.
The guidelines also direct stone crushers to have a dust containment-cum-suppressing system for equipment in the form of covered sheds and sprinklers. A provision for 50 sprinklers has been mandated, however, sprinklers will not serve the purpose unless they are installed at appropriate locations, says CSE. The notification should have specified the location of sprinklers to get the intended results.
According to experts, the crusher operators are also hesitant to use water sprinkling as it increases the maintenance cost of the machine and deteriorates the product quality. An alternative to this could have been the use of a dry extraction system which can be used for extraction and collection of dust.
LACK OF COMPLIANCE
While Haryana already has some guidelines in place, a recent CSE report showed that a majority of units surveyed do not comply with them.
“Stone crushers have become a major source of fugitive emissions owing to their extremely polluting process of crushing stone into smaller-sized stones or powder,” said Yadav.
“The sector also suffers from poor infrastructure. Even with a slight wind or movement of vehicles inside a plant or on the approach roads, an enormous amount of dust pollution happens. The state government needs to first understand why the existing notification failed to achieve its desired result. Simply coming out with a new draft notification without due diligence on the failure of the older notification will not help either the regulators or the stone crushers.”
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