February 17, 2011

life in general & financial markets: smell the industrial pollution

I do not travel much. But whenever I have, and have done so by rail or road, and from one state to another, I have passed by certain areas where I have had the unpleasant experience of smelling nauseous gases emitting from industries. This is more acute when traveling past these areas in the night when there would be no vigilance by state authorities. In my limited travel experience I can point out two such notorious places -- Baroda in Gujarat and a place in Uttaranchal Pradesh that comes on the way from Delhi to Dehra Dun by train.

Industrial pollution is not quite felt by urban India as the factories that spew out deadly gases in the air or release toxic liquid and solid waste on the ground. But it is felt by the villagers and small-town folk who live in or around these remote areas. In these areas, industrial pollution is on a rampage in our country and I am sure in many other countries as well.

It is so because influential people such as politicians, bureaucrats, conscious and articulate elite, and media editors reside in urban areas and do not acutely experience the consequences. Each state in our country has a pollution control board and a vast majority of them have a miserable track record of bringing accountability to the polluters, large or small. We do have strong environment laws passed by the central government and various state governments but they are largely on paper.

Among the heavy industrial pollutants that cause the most damage, when allowed to emit without control, are ones spewed out by sponge iron industry (used to make steel), petrochemicals industry, pesticide-manufacturing companies, coal-based power plants, basic chemicals industry and oil refineries.

It is not that industries and companies, at least a few of them, are not using technology or processes to curtain the toxic emissions, but the rate of growth of production by industrial India is far more than the rate of use of pollution-control mechanisms.
Even though the environment regulators at the state and central level may be sleeping, I believe we, the urban people, can make a difference. All industrial production goes into making various products and articles that we, urbanites, consume. We can curtail such production by moderating our consumption. Every effort counts.

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