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Allow States to make laws to curb environmental degradation and fight pollution, says Gujarat Pollution Control Board chairman
Dr K U Mistry says states inability to frame rules makes it difficult to fight environment violations

State governments must be given the power to enact environmental laws and rules to strengthen them to control pollution and push for sustainable development. Furthermore, environment laws should be moved the Union list (which makes it the responsibility of the Centre alone) to the Concurrent list (which means both the Centre and the states can act on it).

This was stated by Dr K U Mistry, chairman of the Gujarat Pollution Control Board, while making a special address at the inaugural session of the ?Waste Management Summit 2014: Resource Management for Sustainable Future?. The summit was organised by CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

Dr Mistry said that since states are unable to make rules to tackle pollution and environmental degradation, they are handicapped when acting against companies that cause pollution. "Like the Factories Act, which is a central act to protect labour but which allows states to make rules for effective implementation, our environmental laws should allow states to make rules to facilitate implementation of the laws," he said.

Terming environment as a manifestation of God, he said it was now time to make sure that only qualified people are allowed to operate environment control processes for maximum effect, and there was a need for more environmental labs to constantly monitor environmental pollution.

Praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi for launching the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India Mission), he pointed out that instead of passing a law, the PM had chosen first to educate the people about the importance of cleanliness through this movement.

Hari Sankaran, Vice Chairman & Managing Director, IL&FS, said India has had a waste problem for 5,000 years. "Visitors have remarked about our great civilisation and the heap of garbage on the streets. Thus, tackling this issue is a problem the country has never looked at before," he said.

Sankaran said a waste management project at a Delhi dump site was able to generate 17 MW (megaWatts) of power. "But the bigger gain was that in doing this project, we were able to rescue some 350 women and 200 to 300 children who sorted waste. We put the children in school, gave the women visiting cards which made them feel respected, and sold 200 of their products per week. This is why the country needs waste management, he said, and urged those gathered to see waste as a human resource issue.

Daniel Ziegerer, Director & Counsellor, Swiss Development Cooperation, Embassy of Switzerland, said India and Switzerland had been cooperating for 50 years on the issue of sustainable development. "Switzerland was one of the first countries to introduce national e-waste management, which included industry, recycler, public authorities, and the scientific community or experts. We are cooperating with other countries on e-waste management, including India," he said.

Pradeep Bhargava, Chairman, Environment & Recycling Council, CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre, pointed out that waste can generate wealth. "Waste is an essential evil; while we cannot eliminate it, we can minimise and contain waste," he said.

Bhargava said that growing urbanisation and people?s aspiration means waste can only increase. "We will soon generate as much waste as the US though we are only one-fourth their population. But we are only one third their size so where will we dispose this waste?" he asked, and added that the way forward was through recycling and reusing waste.

Industrial Waste Management Association Chairman S Mani urged that reducing waste and using less energy started with the people. "I asked people how old was the water they are drinking and they said one or two days old. They are wrong. It is three billion years old, created when earth first formed, and it is simply being recycled since then. Nature has given us the perfect balance and we have to take care of this balance," he said.

Earlier, Ram N Agnihotri, Chairman, Waste Management Summit 2014, and Director, Mumbai Waste Management Ltd, Ramky Enviro Engineers Ltd, welcomed the delegates to the 5th edition of the summit saying, "We want to create a world where the environment does not need protection." Praising Prime Minister Modi for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, he said cleanliness and pollution control should be part of companies? CSR (corporate social responsibility) activities.

The inaugural session also saw the launch of the Sustainable Recycling Initiative (SRI) Program - A joint initiative by EMPA (Institute for Materials Science & Technology), GIZ (German Society for International Cooperation), and CII. This initiative will develop local life cycle inventory data and promote sustainable recycling of plastic.

Further, a Letter of Intent (LOI) was signed between CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre, CII, Hyderabad; EMPA, Technology & Society Lab, Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science & Technology; and GIZ, Indo-German Environment Partnership. The LOI aims to reduce health risks from the unsafe recycling of hazardous plastics, and to establish a regional centre for life cycle assessment which will allow to quantify planned or already implemented improvements.

S Raghupathy, Executive Director, CII-Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre, said CII?s green initiative started with the promotion of green buildings, then green companies, and was now looking at green products. "In 2003, we build the first green building, today we have 2.6 billion square feet registered green buildings," he said, and concluded the inaugural session by asking the audience to return the next year with plans that could be implemented to reduce waste and pollution.

16 December 2014

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