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No end to ‘stone age’? Haryana’s dust pollution report not thrown out, experts say

Days after the Haryana government released a new draft notice to control air pollution from local rock crushers, experts say the proposed action is inadequate and falls short of its actual goal.

The rock crushing industry, which does not comply with existing environmental standards, is a major source of air pollution. In its latest notification, the Haryana State Pollution Control has reviewed the existing establishment criteria for new units as well as the pollution control measures they must take.

The state has now pushed for tile installation throughout the unit area and paved roads within buildings to improve dust containment. It has also called for limiting particulate matter (SPM) to less than 600 micrograms per cubic meter at any point between three and 10 meters from a rock crushing unit’s process equipment.

While the government has tightened existing standards to some extent, it has apparently failed in others. According to the New Delhi-based Center for Science and Environment (CSE), the notification does not correct the anomalies of older guidelines, which included stricter monitoring. Many units are deliberately reducing the operational capacity of factories to pass an inspection to meet prescribed pollution limits, experts say. Installing environmental monitoring stations both upwind and downwind of the breaker zone would have addressed the problem, they say.

What are the concerns?

Rock crushing zones are only established in Haryana after the availability of raw materials has been considered and illegal mining has been controlled. However, the new notice allows crusher units to be placed even outside the existing or approved zones, except in the case of Faridabad, Palwal and Gurugram. This likely makes inspection difficult and cumbersome, experts say.

“Inspecting units collectively within a breaker zone is more practical than inspecting individual units scattered around,” said Nivit K Yadav, CSE program director (industrial pollution). “The government of Haryana should review the location criteria in the draft notice and take steps to ban rock crushers from operating outside fracturing zones.”

Another major concern is that it reduces a rock crusher’s minimum distance to key sites. For example, the minimum distance from a stone crusher to a national highway or highway has been reduced from 1 km to 0.5 km; the distance to a municipal company has been shortened from 3 km to 2 km.

The guidelines also require rock crushers to have a dust collection cum negative pressure system for equipment in the form of covered sheds and sprinklers. A provision for 50 sprinklers has been mandated, but sprinklers will not serve the purpose unless installed in appropriate locations, CSE says. The notification should have specified the location of sprinklers to get the intended results.

According to experts, crusher operators are also hesitant to sprinkle water as it increases machine maintenance costs and degrades product quality. An alternative to this could have been the use of a dry extraction system that can be used for the extraction and collection of dust.

LACK OF COMPLIANCE

While Haryana has already issued some guidelines, a recent CSE report showed that a majority of units surveyed are not complying with them.

“Rock crushers have become a major source of fugitive emissions because of their extremely polluting process of breaking rock into smaller rocks or powder,” Yadav said.

“The sector also suffers from poor infrastructure. Even with a light wind or movement of vehicles within a factory or on the approach roads, an enormous amount of dust pollution is created. The state government must first understand why the existing notification has not produced the desired result. Simply coming up with a new draft report without taking due diligence about the failure of the older report will not help either the regulators or the stonebreakers.

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