The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Green watchdog in a flap
- After court rap for Maidan nod, PCB steers clear of circuses, fairs and sports

A stinker from Calcutta High Court over the handling of the Book Fair on the Maidan has sent the state pollution control board (PCB) scurrying for cover.

But instead of gearing up to ensure a cleaner environment by increasing its vigil, the PCB has decided to steer clear of fairs, circuses, sporting events and other activities of similar nature.

The decision was taken at a PCB board meeting, chaired by environment minister Sailen Sarkar, last Friday.

“There is no provision for issuing no-objection certificates (NOC) to human activities such as circuses, fairs and sporting events under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, or the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. Events like fairs and circuses don’t figure under any of the five categories of industry mentioned in the Acts that require a clearance,” explained environment secretary M.L. Meena.

As the Book Fair controversy has raised questions over the board’s credibility, the PCB has decided to limit itself to its core activity of issuing clearances to development and industrial projects.

The pollution watchdog was slammed by the the court for issuing “fast-track clearance” to the Publishers and Booksellers Guild to hold the Book Fair on the Maidan.

The high court questioned how the PCB could issue an NOC to the Guild despite high respirable particulate matter, or RPM, (dust that is inhaled and causes damage to the lungs) count on the fairground — 1,136 micrograms per cubic metre.

Sources said it was the first time the PCB had issued such an NOC and the trigger behind the move was chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s interest in the event.

“We have to discontinue this practice… Otherwise, the courts will begin to hold the officers responsible,” said an officer, adding that the NOC to Guild was illegal.

Till date, the PCB has issued basic guidelines to the Book Fair authorities on how to keep pollution under check. Following the court’s prod, the PCB has withdrawn the NOC, issued for Book Fair 2007.

The board has also decided that though it will continue checking the ambient air quality at various places, the data will not be publicised.

But the green brigade is not happy with the PCB’s approach. “The board is shirking its responsibility. Its own data shows that pollution goes up during such events. It should go by the scale of pollution, not the nature of events,” said green activist Subhas Dutta.

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