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Mission clean coal town
- Pollution board radar on capital & steel cities too

The state pollution board is embarking on a mission to clean up Dhanbad, one of 22 most polluted cities of the country, in a do-or-die effort to save the coal capital that was till last year banned from setting up new industrial units.

Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board (JSPCB) will, therefore, launch “Save Dhanbad” campaign on Saturday with a day-long brainstorming session with environmental scientists from across the country to figure out workable solutions to reduce toxicity levels in Dhanbad whose air is filled with soot and coal dust, among various other pollutants.

“Dhanbad is our priority because we don’t want another moratorium affecting the development of the state. Yes, we want industries and jobs, but not at the risk of the environment,” said JSPCB chairman A.K. Mishra, adding that similar plans were on the anvil for other polluted towns, namely Jamshedpur, Ranchi and Bokaro.

“Saturday’s deliberations (at BCCL seminar hall, Jagjivan Nagar, 11am) will be the first step in our endeavour to make Dhanbad a green city,” Mishra said, adding experts from Indian School of Mines (ISM), Central Institute of Mining and Fuel Research (CIMFR) and others from Kolkata and New Delhi would be in attendance.

In February 2010, Dhanbad found itself in a list of top 27 polluted cities of the country with the release of a comprehensive environment pollution index report by the Union ministry of forest and environment (MOEF) and IIT- Delhi.

The survey indicated “high” to “very high” levels of pollution in Nirsa block, Govindpur industrial area, Dhanbad Municipal Corporation areas, Jharia Municipal Corporation areas and Sindri industrial area.

This led the Centre to impose a moratorium on setting up new industrial units or expanding existing units in Dhanbad district. The ban, however, was lifted in September last year after the state initiated a few corrective measures.

“I think Dhanbad was among top 15 in the list of red-flagged polluted cities. We prepared an immediate action plan to reduce pollution. This included directing industries to install sprinklers in collieries, making sewage treatment plans mandatory in all units, especially the big ones like BCCL, raising the height of chimneys, installation of real time air monitoring systems, etc. All these helped in controlling and minimising pollution,” said an official at the regional pollution board office in Dhanbad.

But, JSPCB chairman A.K. Mishra said a threat perception was still on. “We need long-term measures, not hit-and-run sort of things. Therefore, we are in search of sustainability solutions for Dhanbad,” he said.

Mishra explained that the outcome of Saturday’s discussions would pave the way for kick starting the Save Dhanbad plan.

“We know the threats. Now, we need to work out how to tackle them scientifically and rationally. After the discussions, we will put up a formal plan before the state government and begin work in time-bound manner,” he said.

Dhanbad, he added, would be the pilot after which similar campaigns would be rolled out for other polluted cities of Jharkhand. Apart from this, we are also crafting a state environmental action plan for the long run,” he added.

Given the state’s track record of achievements, the Save Dhanbad plan seems easier said than done. Its success depends on the diligence of the board in pursuing the initiative to its logical conclusion.