The pollution commons

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#1 Who is the polluter? What is their waste-typology?

This is the first critical and often make-or-break step. Get the property rights regime wrong and it is clear that nothing will work, is the advice of common property managers in rural areas. It is the same for a cetp.

Delhi is the best example of this. “There were lot of problems with the initial survey of industries carried out by neeri,” says the dsidc official. This survey was the basis of estimating pollution levels, designing cetps and apportionment of cost between the individual units in the industrial areas.

“Industries did not provide adequate data at the time of survey,” says an official from cpcb. He gives the example of Wazirpur industrial area. “Almost all industries in Wazirpur have installed tubewells and use the groundwater but they have not mentioned this in the survey forms just to avoid paying for pollution control,” informs the official. Industrialists are alleged to have given wrong details about the size of operation, number of workers and many other things.

Industrialists on their part blame neeri and the government departments for the problems in the initial survey. “In the Okhla industrial area, neeri identified about 2,200 units out of which 235 turned out to be fake,” informs Kuldip Khanna, an industrialist and treasurer of Okhla Industrial Area cetp Society. Why would the genuine industries pay the extra money on account of neeri’s erroneous survey, he asks? Factory owners say that despite being informed about the discrepancies in the list of industries and the resultant cost apportionment, government departments have constantly refused to correct these anomalies. Sahi Dalip Singh, secretary of the Mayapuri Industrial Area cetp Society gives a bizarre example. “While filling up the form, one particular industry filled up the column asking for area of the industry as 332 square metres (400 sq yards). Amazingly in apportionment this industry was charged for 332,400 sq yards which is an exorbitant amount,” says Singh. “And now the authorities want all industries to share the cost of someone else’s blunder,” rues Singh.

But once the survey has been done, the costs fixed on that basis, reopening the issue is like opening up a can of worms as it would require a new survey, new cost apportionments and altogether new collection of money for the payment of the capital costs of the cetp. But without this, industry refuses to pay. Also, without regular and accurate surveys, new industries are not added to the list of polluters and charged for treatment of effluents. It is a stalemate.

But others, more fortunate without government interference, have found pragmatic solutions. In the case of the Naroda cetp in Gujarat , members of the estate were required to book the amount of effluent they would send to the plant each day. Industries were broadly classified on their waste typology and charges fixed. So, the most polluting dye and dye intermediates paid almost 75 per cent of the total capital cost. But also, to reward the early comers, differential rates were declared for future bookings. Therefore, while the before-construction rate was Rs 5 per litre, the going rate for booking waste treatment is Rs 35 per litre.

#2 Who will pay?

The Pali cetp in the textile and dying town of Rajasthan used the most imaginative methods for cost recovery. Instead of a complicated formula based on water usage or pollution load, they charged Rs 50 for every 100 kg bale of white/grey cloth entering the town for printing or dyeing. For example, if an industrialist buys 2,000 kg of cloth, he or she would pay Rs 1,000 as the factory’s effluent treatment charges. Also, the collection method was simple: the Pali municipal council collected it at the octroi checkpoints and handed it over to the cetp management. The state government issued a gazzette notification