PCBs inadequacy sharing information with the public.
By Bijay Mishra
Bhubaneswar , August 12, 2021:
Including Odisha State Pollution Controll Board ( OSPCB), 30 SPCBs/PCCs, out of total 35 have not shared soft copies of directions and show cause/closure notices issued on their websites .A majority of India’s pollution control agencies remain closed entities when it comes to sharing information with the public. A new rating study by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has found that a mere handful of India’s pollution control boards and authorities are adequately putting out environmental and governance information into the public domain.
As per TRANSPARENCY INDEX , Rating of pollution control boards on public disclosure , only 14 boards and committees scored 50 per cent or above.
“State PCBs are entrusted with several functions under the provisions of the Water Act, 1974; Air Act, 1981; Water Cess Act, 1977; and various rules and notifications issued under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. One of these functions under Section 17(C) of the Air and Water Acts is to collect and disseminate information related to air and water pollution and also about its prevention, control or abatement. The law asks the boards to share the data in public domain. But this is rarely done in practice.”- said Nivit Kumar Yadav, programme director, Industrial Pollution Unit, CSE .
“For this study, CSE collected data from two sources -- websites of SPCBs/PCCs and their annual reports. The study has evaluated the information shared by SPCBs/PCCs during the last four to five years (2016-21) and uses 25 indicators that provide a broader assessment on the type and amount of information shared. A few key indicators used in the study include the availability of information on direction/show cause/closure notices issued by boards, information on public hearings and EIA reports, non-attainment cities and polluted river stretches etc.”- told Shreya Verma, programme officer, Industrial Pollution Unit, CSE, and author of the study .
As per the study report , information on functioning, actions taken by a board against polluting industries, public hearing data on new projects etc are rarely disclosed or remain difficult to access on the websites.
Including OSPCB , many have not shared minutes of their board meetings on their websites.Many SPCBs/PCCs have not provided detailed information on public hearings, which includes the executive summary, draft EIA report of the project, and minutes of the meeting.
Data indicating the current pollution levels – air pollutants, waste etc – the basic indicators of environment health, is missing. Most boards display inadequate data, indicating no trends. More so, even details on upcoming projects and grievances of the general public of the locality are hardly displayed.Only 19 SPCBs/PCCs are displaying their CEMS data ,even after a statutory obligation to do it, as per a Supreme Court order (February 22, 2017) and an environment ministry directive (GSR 96(E) January 29, 2018).
Fourteen SPCBs/PCCs do not share any information on municipal waste generation; 11 on plastic waste generation; 10 on hazardous waste; and nine on e-waste.
The study has also found a lack of uniformity in displaying data -- for instance, all the SPCBs/PCCs surveyed have different website formats, which makes accessing information quite difficult. Similarly, there is no format for annual reports: hence, the information available varies from board to board.
Nivit adds: “Improving transparency is a ‘must’ when it comes to state pollution control boards. Putting in the public domain crucial pollution-related information, data and details of actions taken is critical – it can help policy-makers take the discussions to the next level of pollution management, and it can also reassure the people about efficiency of these boards and committees. SPCBs and SPCCs, therefore, must focus urgently to become more transparent by putting out data and improving the quality of their outreach for public engagement.”