Smokestacks belching grey fumes are on their way out, with the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (PCB) slapping closure orders on 39 small-scale industries operating exclusively on coal-fired boilers.
The clampdown on the units in the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) area is part of a project aimed at phasing out coal boilers. Units that have not complied with earlier warnings to meet emission norms have been issued the ultimatum. According to PCB sources, of the identified 39, 25 are rubber industries while eight belong to the dyeing and bleaching category. Most of them are in the Tiljala-Topsia belt.
“Industrial units were first told in May 2001 to shift from coal to cleaner fuels, like oil or gas, to meet the state particulate emission standards of 150 mg per cubic metre. But these units did not heed our directive,” explained PCB chairperson Hirak Ghosh. Directives have been issued on disconnecting the water and power lines to the errant units. They were even offered 50 per cent of the funds required for the technological upgradation and support by way of knowhow as part of the Pollution Prevention and Waste Minimisation of Small-Scale Industrial Units project, led by the PCB and India Canada Environment Facility (ICEF).
The CMC area has around 300 small-scale industries, mainly in the Tiljala, Topsia, Cossipore and Dum Dum belts, of which 153 are reportedly running on either oil or gas. “Another 21 are in the process of conversion. Nineteen have been closed down, while the rest are in different stages of compliance,” added Ghosh.
According to PCB statistics, when the project began in October 2001, there were around 265 small-scale, coal-fired industries in the CMC area, mainly engaged in the rubber, dyeing and bleaching, paper board, pulp and pharmaceuticals sectors. “Within a year, 120 of them had converted to oil-fired boilers, while 32 are now using the dual options of coal and oil,” explained chief scientist and project manager Dipak Chakraborty. “Around Rs 53 lakh of the nearly Rs 9 crore funds has already been disbursed or is in the pipeline for industries that have made the shift,” said Chakraborty. “We would like industries running on dual options to shift exclusively to oil,” Board officials said.