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‘Sustainable development is part of Gujarat’s industrial policy’
Shailendra Tyagi  3rd Jan 2015

Hardik Shah

Hardik Shah, Member Secretary, Gujarat Pollution Control Board tells Shailendra Tyagi about the merits of Gujarat's environmental policies which have brought down the level of industrial pollution without compromising the pace of industrial development in the state. He also underlines the employment potential of the environment sector.

Q: Gujarat is the one of the most industrialised states in the country. Is regulating such a state a challenge for Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB)?

A: Of course, it is a big challenge. Industrial development has been at the core of Gujarat government's developmental agenda for last several years. Gujarat has the strong footings of (potentially) polluting industries like chemicals, pharmaceuticals, cement, petrochemical and textiles, so ensuring that these industries follows environmental norms was (is) indeed a challenge for us. We approach the industries more as a friendly facilitator rather than as a police, a reason why we have been successful in convincing the industries to follow green practices in their production processes.

Q: There is a perception that industries generally do not like to be disciplined. Have the industries resisted following the green practices as prescribed by the board?

A: Yes there was some resistance in the beginning. But we impressed upon the industrial segments that environmental protection is a part and parcel of Gujarat's industrial policy. Industries also realised its merits. In the last several years, we have ensured that industries remain fully compliant with our green policies while allowing them to grow. The end result of this mutual cooperation is that while the industrialisation has grown by about 30% in the last few years but the level of pollution has come down by about 40% on an average across all industrial segments. Here I would like to confess that lack of technology and lack of trained manpower were genuine concerns that industries had been facing and we are addressing such issues.

Q: Gujarat's development model seems to have been inspired by the term "Sustainable Development". What does the term actually mean?

A: Sustainable development ensures that while we use natural resources for our developmental needs, we are also duty-bound to preserve them and pass the same on to the next generation. This concept called the intergenerational equity has been at the core of our developmental agenda and our policies are centered on the concept of sustainable development. In the last few years, we have hugely promoted the concept of "utilisation of waste" which ensures that the waste of one industry can be used either as a raw material or as a fuel for another industry. For example, we now have technology in place to use the waste of the pharmaceutical sector as a fuel for the cement industry. In the last four years, we have utilised about 15 lakh tonnes of waste either as a raw material or as a fuel in other industries. This is another way for ensuring the sustainable development. Keeping in view that we are net importers of energy, waste management has now become a well accepted practice in Gujarat.

Q: What is the potential of the environment sector as far as job creation is concerned and what role is the Gujarat Pollution Control Board playing to provide skills to operate green infrastructure?

A: The environment sector is indeed a sector of employment as well as of other economic opportunities. While implementing the model of sustainable development, we found that there is a huge shortage of trained manpower to run the environmental infrastructure that we had set up. The employment potential of the green sector can be understood by taking the example of an effluent treatment plant. Gujarat needs around 15,000 effluent treatment plants and each plant would require up to three operators (for three shifts), so this alone has the potential to create up to 45,000 jobs and may be equal numbers in hazardous waste sector as well as municipal solid waste sector. We are running micro level programmes to provide training to people who can operate effluent treatment plant. Many industrial estates and their associations have also come forward for employing the trained manpower for waste water treatment. We have now started "Director of Employment and Training" in Gujarat to introduce ITI level programme for effluent treatment plant operators, air pollution control equipment operators and suchlike. The Director of Employment and Training is also developing curriculum for skill development in the environment sector.

Q: There is a perception among industrial players that following environment norms has its own associated cost thus making them uncompetitive. Do you agree with such concerns?

A: It is a well accepted fact that industries did show some resistance in the beginning. So the challenge before us was to convince them that improvement in their production processes would not only make them environmentally compliant but would eventually improve their yields and also their bottom lines. Now industries themselves have realised the benefits of adopting clean production technologies. So whatever success Gujarat has achieved on this front is due to the involvement of every stakeholder. Going forward things would improve further.

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