The copper smelter plant of Vedanta Limited, Sterlite at Thoothukudi, has been embroiled in controversy ever since it tried to start operations. After being rejected, from three states, finally it got approval from the Government of Tamil Nadu in 1994. The people have protested ever since the start and had intensified the protest in the last three months. The peaceful protest on its 100th day turned violent leading to death of 13 innocent people and several injured and arrested. Normal life was disturbed and there were reports that people were still being arrested at midnight. The entire episode has given us valuable lessons to avoid such controversies in the future. This article highlights some of the environmental and related issues to be taken care while running an industrial plant. The details have been collected from various government and related non government agencies.
Some of the parameters that are to be taken in to consideration while building up or managing an industrial plant are listed below.
- Liquid Effluents
- Air Pollution
- Solid Wastes
- Noise and Vibration
- Occupational Safety and Health
- Prevention, maintenance and operation of Environment Control Systems
- House Keeping
- Human Settlements
- Transport Systems
- Disaster Planning
- Environment Management Cell
- Employee Morale
- Being Ethical and Social Responsibility
- Implementing Energy Efficiency measures
- Using Green Power
The parameters are discussed in detail below.
Following are the key points that all industries need to follow while moving ahead with the establishment of manufacturing/processing unit in certain areas. These are;
- The industrial plant must be located away from the township.
- The location should have adequate facilities to dispose or treat the waste from the industrial production in the most possible environmental friendly way.
- Fertile agricultural land should not be converted in to industrial area.
- Forest land should not be made in to an industrial area. (Reference: Forest Conservation Act, 1980).
- The green belt around the industrial plant should be for at least 1.5 Kilo meter.
- The location should be large enough to accommodate waste water treatment and solid waste treatment. The treated water may be used to water the green belt.
- The location should be able to accommodate the process of the waste water treatment.
- 33% of the plant area must be green area.
- The liquid effluents from the industrial plants should be treated well to the standards as prescribed by the Government agencies.
- The soil at the plant has to be studied to confirm whether the soil is suitable for handling such effluents with the contamination of the ground water.
- The effluents should not disturb the life pattern of the animals and birds living in and around the industrial plant, as wells as the migratory birds.
- Efforts should be made to make sure that the effluent is recycled in to a usable water.
- The level of pollutants being emitted from the industrial plant should confirm the prescribed limits set by the pollution control board.
- Internal measures should be taken so that the fugitive emissions are under control and the emission levels are under control.
- Proper infrastructure should be developed to check and control the emission levels.
- The industrial plant should be checked at regular intervals fo any contamination of natural resources due to disposal of solid waste from the industry.
- The waste disposal unit should be far away from the township or village.
- Any reactive materials should be disposed only after nullifying the effects.
- The disposal mechanism should be as per the prescribed norms.
- Aggressive tree plantation should be carried out at waste disposal areas.
Noise and Vibrations
The noise and vibrations from the industry should be controlled by implementing necessary measures and infrastructure.
Occupational Safety and Health
- The safety of the workers should be given paramount importance. The prescribed heath safety and occupational safety should be followed religiously.
- Periodic mock drills can also be conducted to make sure awareness among the workers.
Prevention, maintenance and operation of Environment Control Systems
- Periodic maintenance of machinery should be done to make the machinery run effectively.
- A system of inter-locking with the production equipment should be implemented where highly toxic compounds are involved.
- Proper house-keeping and cleanliness should be maintained both inside and outside of the industry.
- The township should be located far away from the liquid waste and dumping areas.
- Proper re-habitation should be given to people who have lost their land to the industrial development
- The industrial plant should have proper parking and road facilities to avoid any traffic blockages in around the industrial plant.
- Road signs and safety precautions should be highlighted in the road sideways.
- Care should be taken to make sure that no harmful substances are spilled on the road.
The wastes from the industrial plants should be recycled to the greatest possible extent.
- Proper pre cautionary measures should be taken to manage during any diaster.
- periodic mock drills should be conducted to increase awareness.
- Safety equipments like fire fighter should be maintained periodically and should be ready for use always.
Environment Management Cell
There should be an exclusive cell to manage the environment in and around the plant. Periodic activities should be taken to spread awareness among the employees about the need to conserve the environment.
Employees totally trust the company and their livelihood depends on the industrial plant. The management should make sure that the plant adheres to all the environmental and other laws for smooth functioning of the plant. If any violations is found, it may adversely affect the operations and may even lead to the closure of the plant. The closure of the plant would affect the livelihood of the employees as well the contract labourers. The suppliers and their employees to the industrial plant would also be affected. People who were indirectly employed will also be affected. Thus this is an ripple effect affecting not only the direct employees.
Being Ethical and Social Responsibility
The management should realise that being ethical is of paramount importance. There might some loop holes in the laws of the land, through which environment may be allowed to pollute. The management should go beyond the prescribed laws and make sure that the environment is well protected. The industrial plant should also engage in maintaining good relations with local community and help the local community understand the operations and safety of the plant. It should be ensured that any concerns or fear of the local community about the plant’s operations should be addressed satisfactorily.
Implementing Energy Efficiency measures
Periodic energy audits will help in understanding the energy saving potential at the industrial plant. By implementing energy efficiency measures, the total power need of the industrial plant comes down drastically. This will cut down the energy consumption of the plant, thereby reducing the required power generation capacity. As most of the power generation caused environmental hazard, this helps in reducing the environmental hazard.
Using Green Power
The industrial plant can install renewable sources of energy such as solar power and wind, in order to be carbon neutral and helping in reducing the global foot print.
ROLE OF GOVERNMENT
The Government should make sure that all the prescribed norms are adhered by the industrial plant in the most transparent way. The Government should make the safeguard of the citizens the priority. While it has became a common practice for political parties to raise funds from private players, they should make sure that they would not succumb to corporate lobbying against the interests of the people.