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What is the current thrust area for MPCB?

It is biomedical waste. It is very hazardous. The biomedical waste from hospitals and nursing homes has to go for systematic incineration. We have established 24 such centres across Maharashtra and are in the process of setting up five more. Big hospitals in major cities have their own incineration facilities but the smaller ones need to be provided with this. Over the last three months, MPCB has done an inventory of hospitals. Even one bed in a hospital is capable of generating a huge amounts of biomedical waste. We have compiled a list of 33,000 medical establishments. Out of this, 27,000 are non-bedded organisations like clinics and pathological laboratories. Hospitals and clinics that serve more than 1000 patients a day are brought under authorisation.

E-waste is another priority. The Board has conducted a detailed study and it is estimated that the e-waste generation in Mumbai and Pune would be significantly high by year 2015.

This high level of inventorisation has generated interest of private entrepreneurs and one facility of physical dismantling of e-waste is in operation in Mumbai in the private sector. MPCB is further carrying out Techno-Economic feasibility study for integrated e-waste management facility. MPCB has also taken a policy decision to provide limited financial assistance to integrated e-waste management facility. We hope more facilities will come up in Public-Private Partnership mode.

What are the environment concerns?

There are a few things that one can do to preserve the environment at the individual level like planting trees and avoiding the use of plastic bags. Remember that every single thing that you dispose are health hazards, more so if there is not a specific disposal facility for it. Western countries are dumping their waste on us as ‘raw materials’ because it is cheaper for them to do so rather than dispose it off in a scientific and systematic manner. Waste disposal is expensive but our country should not be used as a dumping ground.

We plan to come out with an action plan for climate change because it drastically affects agriculture and coastal areas. We are involving the Urban Development and Non-conventional Energy Department. Abroad they have an air quality action plan with restrictions on the movement of vehicles in areas where the air pollution levels are too high. We have suggested a similar concept to be implemented here as well.

In Maharashtra, MPCB is conducting regular air monitoring and the ‘dust particles’ are found to be the concerned pollutant. There are several contributors for these dust particles like road dust suspension, industries, solid waste burning, etc. The automobiles also contribute significantly the dust in urban areas and detailed study is underway to assess the contribution of various sources. The air quality initiatives in urban areas can include encouragement of public transport, road dust resuspension control, proper solid waste management by stopping burning of solid waste, etc. MPCB also feels that the air quality data in urban areas should be available for public information which can lead to demand for cleaner air. MPCB has developed a network of air quality monitoring in the state and the entire air quality data is available on the website www.mpcb.gov.in in a dynamic manner.

What are the other initiatives?

MPCB is planning to open a Clean Technology Cell, for which the sanction has been received. There are a lot of plans on the anvil. We are taking the best practices of what is happening in Western countries.

The Environment Committee has laid down clearance norms for residential projects. When the developer hands over charge to the society, he must provide a corpus fund that is sufficient for three years operating cost of the sewage treatment plant (STP). This ensures that the STP s not wasted. We also insist on 100% water recycling, the waste water should be used for flushing, gardens, etc. We have suggested to the Urban Development department that Green Buildings should be given reduction in property tax for the initial period.

MPCB is conducting water quality monitoring at 250 locations at major water resources in the State. This data is available to public and other organization through MPCB website. We are planning environment awareness programmes for municipal schools. Initially there will be a pilot project in Navi Mumbai.

The Department of Social Forestry is also working as a nodal agency for implementing the programme of National Green Corps. Under this programme eco clubs are established in about 9000 schools in Maharashtra and various eco-friendly activities are taken up by about four lakh ‘green soldiers.’ Under this programme, children are encouraged to collect seeds of tree species during holidays, raise nurseries in their schools and celebrate various ‘green festivals.’ A special drive to plant Banyan, Bael, Neem, etc., is taken up. Also, efforts are made to conserve the already existing green cover through eco clubs.

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