Showing industry its place

BY THE turn of the century environmental criteria and public opinion will become the decisive factors for industrial siting in the country. A "zoning atlas", the first of its kind, is to be used for identifying sites for "ideal industry location". Sources in the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), which is compiling the atlas, claimed the highly polluted areas would be decongested through regular monitoring.

N Raghu Babu, environmental engineer with the CPCB says, "The haphazard and unplanned location of industry is perhaps the root cause of rampant environmental degradation." Officials at the ministry of environment and forests (MEF) cite the various examples, especially that of the worsening conditions in the Ankleshwar-Vapi belt, the hub of the chemical industry.

The most significant achievement has been the identification of the sensitive zones unsuitable for industry. Says Gerhard Werner, an environmental consultant with the gtz, "The population pressure on land leads to perpetual sitings and later it becomes impossible to relocate either a town or an industrial zone. A careful selection of the sites is thus of paramount importance."

The compilation of the atlas involves the local populace at all stages, so that their opinion regarding the placement of certain industries are incorporated into the mapping, says Dirk Floss. The procedure for preparing the atlas, according to the draft report, includes the preparation of a base map of a district, one showing the sensitive zones, and a map depicting alternative sites for the polluting industries depending on their pollution potential.

"Using the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technique, we can overlay all the data and pin-point the areas suitable for siting industry," adds Floss.

Mohammad Rais of the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies, and a member of the gis team, states that geo-stationery and weather satellite pictures had been used to get different time-images of an area.

Says A K Chaturvedi of the environment management division of the Confederation of Indian Industry, "Once ready, the study would be of tremendous help to industrialists, as it would act as a ready-reckoner. I think it would simplify procedures to a very large extent."

What the atlas compilers seem to have ignored so far is the future of the implied "suitable areas", which would end up in converting the country's wastelands. This will have to be taken into consideration before the atlas is finally compiled.