(2) Management based on best practicable means.
The first approach requires statutory provision for standards for each pollutant for air, water, and noise and soil pollution. In this approach, each polluter could choose a suitable technique for pollution control, based on their evaluation for technical feasibility and economic viability.
A regular monitoring of each relevant pollutant and its comparison with prescribed limit will indicate the amount of pollution to be removed by pollution control.
However, should there be any deviation from the prescribed limits; penal action could be taken against the polluter. The standards indicating the permissible limits for liquid effluents discharge on land and into water streams including lakes and rivers.
It should be appreciated that the permissible limits are higher for disposal on land because, due to percolation, there will be significant reduction in their values before their joining the water systems and, in case where effluent is discharged directly into river system, the effect will be direct and naturally the permissible limits are lower.
Regarding air pollution, the standards for ambient air quality are given in which indicates that the permissible limits are highest for industrial areas but lowest in the case of sensitive areas including Agra-Mathura region, due to location of Taj Mahal, and the entire hill area including Kumaon and Garhwal region of the state.
The second approach is based on best practicable means . In this case, the industry is free to adopt any suitable method which is technically feasible as well as economically viable. Such a system is prevalent in the United Kingdom. It may also be emphasized that the Environmental Protection Agency for the United States shifted the time bound standards for a specific period of time when confronted with the energy crisis.
The developing nations have also started organizing effective checks and controls on environmental pollution. In some case, suitable standards for water pollution have also been prescribed.
However, detailed standards, for different industrial environments as well as for waste disposal, noise, air pollution, radioactive materials, etc., are yet to be developed. In each case, it is necessary to have a time bound programme for implementation of effluent treatment plan to meet the prescribed limits, and to consider the calculation of depth columns for dumping of radioactive waste, which will not come into contact with permanent water levels of the land.
The site should be selected so that permeability and possibly of cap rock including container are fairly low to enable any appreciable diffusion. In case of tanneries, for example, the BOD of effluent varies from 7000 to 10,000 mg/l depending upon whether they are dealing with vegetable or chrome tanning or a combination of both the tanning operations.
It is obviously difficult to immediately reduce BOD to 30 mg which is the permissible limit for BOD, when the effluents are to be discharged into natural streams,. Similarly, the situation in the case of distilleries is still worse because the BOD of the effluent is about 50,000 mg/l. In such cases, a suitable grace period is needed to enable the industry to develop suitable treatments for effluent disposal with prescribed limit.
The following suggestions could be helpful in proper environmental management:
With regard to implementation, there are three possibilities. The first is to have statutory provisions and to declare that the level of pollutants, discharged into open streams beyond the desired limit, will invite criminal proceedings or other suitable actions by the state.
Thus, it will be mandatory to have as an integral part of each plant, a suitable device to reduce the level of each pollutant below the desired limit.
The second possibility is to leave the matter entirely to the industry, with certain guidelines so that they may adopt the best practicable methods available. There is a third alternative which incorporates the advantages of both the methods but in any case a time bound programme will be needed.
1. There is no doubt that the ‘best practicable means’ approach offers a lot of freedom and has built-in flexibilities, which could be fully utilized for the benefit of the industry, and in the case of environmental management based on standards, it is essential for industry to follow the standards to avoid penal action.
2. In developing countries about 80% people live in villages and are engaged in agriculture. The sanitary conditions prevalent in villages are far from satisfactory.
A large migration of rural people from rural to urban areas due to’ urban pull’ and’ rural push’ is also responsible for poor collection of solid wastes on a large number of them do not have regular accommodation in the city. Sometimes, this collection does not even exceed 30%.
Obviously, this balance creates the problem of soil pollution and, subsequently, water pollution due to run off, eventually joining a natural stream, and air pollution due to favorable meteorological conditions in tropical countries. Even climatic conditions are favorable to biodegradation of waste materials left outside in tropical countries.
It is, therefore, obvious that the situation in developing countries is different from that prevalent in developed nations, especially cold countries.
3. In the case of developing countries, there is increasing emphasis on small scale/ cottage/village industries, especially to contain unemployment. However, it is very difficult for small scale industries to have effective effluent treatment plant to meet prescribed limits of state pollution control board.
They do not have expertise either for monitoring or for abatement of effluent. Further, they have resource constraint which also comes in their way in timely implementation of pollution control.
4. There is apparently some relationship between the size of the plant and the profit likely to be earned, especially due to scale economy. This also discourages the small-scale industry from going in for pollution abatement.
5. Extensive instrumental facilities to measure concentration of each pollutant are required, irrespective of the size of the industry, especially when the materials involved are the same. The expenses involved also prevent the small-scale industry from going in for scientific monitoring of each pollutant at regular interval.
6. Pollution abatement measures, except in the case of odor and noise, may not increase productivity, which is considered a plus point in favor of pollution abatement. The awareness, about loss in hearing, due to constant noise levels, has not yet been fully appreciated in developing countries, as this process is slow and its harmful effect has not yet been fully realized, i.e., it takes a fairly long time before hearing loss is appreciable.
7. The general standard of living is fairly low in developing countries. Hence, the flexibility offered by the ‘best practicable means’ approach may not be fully appreciated. On the other hand, it is likely to be misused.
Even today, in most of the developing countries, statutory provisions for the monitoring of air, water, soil, noise and radioactive materials have not been laid down. In some countries, there is a provision for monitoring of important water streams at regular interval throughout a year.
Surprisingly, scientific water treatment plants are not available everywhere, especially in third world countries. The absence of sophisticated instruments, required for proper monitoring of some of the pollutants, is another parameter responsible for delay in scientific monitoring.
8. What happened at Swansea Valley (England), where due to concentration of similar industries, especially with identical characteristics of effluent led to water and soil pollution and, consequently, the industrial activities came to a halt. This should be an eye opener to the scientific community and planners and should be kept in view while formulating policies for environmental management. Once pollution is left unchecked, there will be several closures like Swansea Valley industries.
9. The flexibility of the ‘best practicable means’ approach may lead to unnecessary litigation, causing delay and wastage of money in developing countries, due to difficulty in agreeable quantification of technical feasibility and economic viability, especially with relatively poor civic responsibility.
10. In the last five years, the standards for hexavalent chromium, mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, etc., have been reduced by several-fold. Obviously, this has been done due to better scientific understanding about their effects on human health. The studies conducted on a few important and common fishes, e.g., Mirgala Singala (Sihii), MystursMystus (Tangri), Hetroponeust (Singhi), and Channagachua (Giri), have revealed that the distribution of heavy metals in different parts is not uniform.
11. As far as industrialization is concerned, there has not been geographical uniformity due to several constraints. Hence, the degree of pollution, which is directly linked to industrialization, is far from uniform.
Thus, the total pollution load on each natural stream, at places, is different, suggesting different action in different situations.
For example, in a region where there are a few industries, there is no point in being rigid about the concentration of different pollutants in the effluents being discharged into natural streams or in air.
But in the case of heavily industrialized areas, the discharge of each industry should be carefully analyzed because the total load on the natural stream would consist of individual loads.
Hence, the idea of enforcing a uniform standard for different pollutants discharged into the natural stream in different areas does not appear to be scientifically and economically sound. Here, again it is necessary to have different standards for different zones.
In fact, wherever assimilation capacity is still available, further industrialization may be encouraged. But wherever the assimilation capacity has been surpassed due to heavy pollution, further industrialization, without-polluting industries, should be encouraged.
The state could be divided into three parts, Red, Grey and Green. Red area may be considered as that area where pollution load is more than assimilation capacity.
Gray area may be considered for the part of the state where pollution load is less than 50% of the assimilation capacity. Green area may be considered that area where pollution load is within 25% of the assimilation capacity.
12. The ecosystem consists of the physical and biotic environment. The biotic environment consists of the animal kingdom, plant kingdom and human beings. The dynamic interaction among the three is very complex.
Similarly, the impact of the physical environment on biotic environment is not yet well-understood. In the absence of any quantification of interactions between the physical environment and the biotic environment and different degree of pollution load, it is difficult to suggest realistic standards for different pollutants which are acceptable to polluters as well.
13. There is no proper justification for carrying out a detailed physicochemical and biological analysis at different points in natural water streams. For example, in Uttar Pradesh, there is practically no point in finding out the radioactivity as there is practically no source.
Secondly, there is no justification for carrying out a detailed chemical analysis as there is no sources for some of the heavy metals, e.g., hexavalent chromium, lead, mercury, etc., at many places. The total biological analysis, as suggested in the prescribed standards, may not lead to meaningful information and may not effectively convey the position of a body of water, i.e., river or lake, with regard to its pollutants.
In view of the points enumerated earlier, the following conclusions are obvious:
1. There should be statutory standards for air, water, noise, radioactive materials, etc. But due to the difficulties mentioned earlier, they should be implemented keeping in view the special situation, i.e., circumstances associated with the industry and natural streams involved. Total pollution load on the river, its assimilation capacity and self-purification constant should be invariably considered.
2. The standards should serve as guidelines and there should be complete flexibility so that the pace of industrialization may be maintained or accelerated as far as possible.
The global and regional requirements, and also economic conditions, may be kept in view while making statutory provision for the standards to be maintained by each industry.
The practice of ‘best practicable means’, as adopted in the United Kingdom, and shifting of standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States are outstanding examples.
3. Wherever suitable technical know-how is not available, a grace period may be allowed and, in the meantime, suitable know-how may be developed with assistance from the polluting industry on the principle ‘polluter should pay’.
Further, as mentioned earlier, certain guidelines with regard to the desirable limits are necessary to know the exact position.
4. As an incentive, tax concessions may be given to those industries which are maintaining the standards, and a suitable penalty may be imposed on those which are well above the prescribed limit, depending upon the degree of deviation from standards prevailing in the industry.
Thus, a flexible approach to environmental management, based on standards, should be adopted with, provision for detailed evaluation of technical feasibility and economic viability, jointly by polluters as well as enforcement agencies, so that both have faith in the evaluation, and the systems for effluent treatments, thus finalized, are implemented with full confidence.