India, I thought, had done a lot to curb industrial production and clean up its environment. I was also quite sure that the country was miles ahead of China in this area. So I was quite surprised to find that the Blacksmith Institute’s latest report on the world’s most polluted places includes two Indian cities – Vapi and Sukinda.
The list also has two cities from China and two from Russia.
I was, of course, not surprised that Vapi has been selected among the various Indian cities. The city is on Gujarat's "Golden Corridor", a 400 km belt of industrial estates, which according to the Institute has over 50 industrial estates and more than 1000 individual industries. Many of these manufacture chemicals, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, dyes, fertilisers and paints.
The Institute identifies heavy metals, cyanides, pesticides complex aromatic compounds as some of the toxins contained in the waste products discharged by industries in this region.
Mercury in Vapi’s groundwater is reported to be 96 times higher than WHO
health standards. And the Institute states that effluents drain directly into the Damanganga and Kolak Rivers and there is air pollution due to the improper handling of chemicals by industries.
Vapi’s problems date back to the 1990s when the Supreme Court had stepped in to demand a clean up. It is sad to see that so little has changed after so many years.
And it is problems at places such as Vapi that tarnish the image of the chemical industry in the eyes of the common man.
The Indian government has done well to introduce western style laws related to environmental protection. But what’s the use of these laws if the government fails in implementation.