Information disclosures by India's pollution watchdogs needs urgent improvement, for meaningful public scrutiny.
CSE assessment of transparency of Indian pollution control boards
- The story: India's state pollution control boards (SPCBs) and pollution control committees (PCCs) generate large quantities of data every day, online or manually. There's minimal initiative to disclose this information in public domain. A report by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a Delhi-based non-profit, found.
- Details: The CSE rated 35 SPCBs / PCCs based on the information furnished by them on their websites and annual reports over the last five years. The results were published in Rating of pollution control board on public disclosure August 11, 2021.
- The pollution control boards of Odisha and Telangana were the top performers and had scored 67 per cent in transparency.
- Tamil Nadu ranked a close second with 65.5 per cent transparency, Madhya Pradesh ranked third (64 per cent), West Bengal ranked fourth (62 per cent) and Goa ranked fifth (60.6 per cent).
- The rest, primarily boards of the northeastern states, pollution control committees of Union territories, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand boards have performed poorly in sharing information in public domain and scored less than 50 per cent.
- Around 60 per cent of the bodies scored less than 50 per cent on the information disclosure parameters studied.
- What was missed: The core data rarely comes out in public domain, in an easy format -
- Continuous Emission Monitoring Systems (CEMS) data not made public in 13 states / UTs: Andaman & Nicobar, Chandigarh, Daman & Diu, Maharashtra, Manipur, Rajasthan, Nagaland, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Tripura have no provision for making continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMS) data available in the public domain.
- This is despite the Supreme Court order (February, 22 2017) and a notification fromUnion Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 mandating the same.
- Among the 35 SPCBs / PCCs studied, 19 displayed their CEMS data publicly. Lakshadweep, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram do not have any industries which require installation of CEMS. CEMS data of Karnataka and West Bengal is password protected on the official websites.
- Data presentation: The format in which data is presented on the websites and annual reports of the SPCBs / PCCs was not uniform. The information was also difficult to find on the portals of certain boards because of poor navigation support. Only 12 states have shared their latest annual report on their websites: Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Sikkim, Tripura and West Bengal places to have shared annual reports for 2019–20. Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have shared annual reports of the year 2018–19, which is their latest.
- Inspection & compliance reports: In the annual reports, only Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have shared information on the inspection conducted by the pollution control boards. Haryana and Karnataka are the only places to have shared information on compliance status of industries in their reports.
- Information on waste: As many as 11 SPCB / PCCs have not shared information on plastic waste information, 14 have not shared data on municipal solid waste, 10 have not displayed information on hazardous waste information and nine have not disclosed e-waste details on their websites.
- What can be done: Some urgent remedial actions may be -
- There should be a uniform format for presenting annual reports and sharing information on websites. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) should come up with a website format for the SPCBs / PCCs and guidelines for framing annual reports
- The CPCB should come up with a website format all SPCBs / PCCs for uploading information about compliance history of industries, at least for the grossly polluting. Each industry section should have soft copies of notices issued
- All SPCBs / PCCs must make CEMS data public, and public hearing information must be shared by all SPCBs / PCCs online
- Information related to waste management should be made available on the websites of the pollution control bodies.