The unprecedented air and water pollution in the Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalgarh Industrial area of India has made headlines the last few years. Recently, the Ministry of Environment and Central Pollution Control Board identified the industrial hub, dominated by chemical and pharmaceutical companies, as a pollution hot spot. While the Sarsa river, a tributary of the Sutlej is choked with
effluuents, dust and bad odour due to chemical leaks has become a
nuisance across the industrial area. Since there is little awareness about the actual extent of industrial pollution in this area and the impacts on the local environment, GCM's Indian partner, Community Environmental Monitoring Campaign, is educating and training community members to address the industrial pollution through environmental monitoring campaigns.
GCM's regional partner, Shweta Narayan has been coordinating a campaign with Him Parivesh, a local environment Action group based in Nalagarh, under the banner of Community Enviromental Monitoring Campaign. The campaign is using several simple methods brought to India by GCM by which communities affected by pollution can monitor and document the air, dust and water pollution levels in their areas.
“People living next to polluted facilities are much more aware about pollution and do not need any educational degrees to identify when pollution levels are excessive. Documenting their common sense experiences in a scientific manner can provide the best evidence of pollution which cannot be refuted by Pollution Control Board and other agencies” says Narayan.
Adds Narayan who has closely worked with the Bhopal Gas Leak affected people, “BBN Industrial area is another Bhopal in the making as the toxic units here are ill planned and there is no environmental infrstructure in place and most importantly the communities have no information about the hazards of the industries and their complaints have always been disregarded."
The dubious role of the Pollution Control Board is also evident from the fact that out of 1000 units that operate in BBN area, almost 200 do not have a valid liscence to operate. This data has been provided by the State Pollution Control Board under the RTI Act.
“The poor role of the almost disfunctional Pollution Control Board in the state has not been adequately highlighted and virtually no independent documentation and assessment of Industrial Pollution exists in the State” adds Manshi Asher, an activist and researcher who is also part of the organising team.
The three day programme held from the 21st to the 23rd of May included a tour of the industrial area to identify the areas most affected by pollution, followed by two days of community training in Kaduana, Baddi and Jhidiwala, Nalagarh with almost 50 participants including members of Him Parivesh.
Balkrishna Sharma, founder member of Him Parivesh said “The objective of the training is not only to build community capacities and knowledge on pollution check and monitoring but also to build a body of local evidence to pressurise bodies like the Pollution Control Board into action”. "It is truly appalling that in such a scenario, where people's health, livelihoods and environment are at stake, the state government is demanding extention of the industrial subsidy package instead of making Baddi-Barotiwala-Nalagarh free of polluting units" added Sharma.
Read recent press coverage of the training here and here.