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Pollution from Industrial Sites Affecting Health of Delhi Residents

New Delhi, India – Polluting industrial sites dot the entire city and are probably putting Delhites at a huge health risk, points out the latest Toxics Link study “On the Edge – Potential Hotspots in Delhi” released on august 12.

18 sites were identified as potential ‘hotspots’ in this first-of-its-kind study in Delhi, mapping the city’s polluting centres. These sites are regularly contaminating the city’s environment by releasing toxic pollutants and thereby creating health concerns. Notably, Delhi is one of the most polluted cities in the world. Pollution is a key health determinant, and according to World Health Organization (WHO), about a quarter of all diseases are caused due to prolonged exposure to environmental pollution.

Industrial Pollution in India © MoEF

51 sites, located in and near national capital Delhi, were examined during this study on parameters such as: industrial processes, use of chemicals, discharge and emissions, disposal methods, and occupational health & safety. Most of them were found to harbour unauthorized industrial activities and were in or close to residential areas. 18 of these sites – which spread from Samaypur and Badli in the north to Mayapuri and Okhla in the south; and Nazafgarh in the northwest to Mandoli in east – failed on most parameters and were found to be causing unacceptable environmental impacts. The findings at these sites made Toxics Link researchers aptly call them the “potential hotspots”.

“As per the Master Plan Delhi (MPD) 2021, all polluting industries need to be shifted out of Delhi by 2021. Though a lot of efforts have been made but the problem persists. In 2011, MCD was supposed to close down around 22,000 industrial units, but not much seems to have been done,” says Satish Sinha, Associate Director, Toxics Link.

Many of the hotspots were engaged in illegal operations such as lead acid battery recycling, pickling and e-waste recycling, and were found to be releasing acids, emitting toxic fumes of lead, mercury, etc. Units with hazardous activities like CFL processing, textile dyeing, metal works, etc., also dotted these potential hotspots in the city. Thousands of workers were employed in the units, which had no occupational safety norms or standards.

“The hotspots are spread across Delhi; and the toxic releases could be gradually poisoning the entire city inhabitants,” says Priti Mahesh, Chief Program Coordinator, Toxics Link. “Most of the times, the diseases caused by such environmental pollution remain undetected – resulting in much greater damage to the body,” she adds.

One of the potential hotspots, Prem Nagar, near Mandoli, has close to 110 illegal lead acid battery recycling units. These illegal units use coal to fuel crude furnaces, and recover lead in a rudimentary manner. During recycling process, lead fumes and ash are released, thereby contaminating the air and soil and also putting the workers at risk.

Wazirpur has been identified as one of the city’s dirtiest areas by the researchers. It has around 1,200 small units, a large number of them involved in pickling, classified as hazardous industrial activity and not allowed within the city limits. (Pickling is a treatment for metal surfaces used to remove impurities such as stains, inorganic contaminants, rust or scale from ferrous metals, copper, and aluminium alloys). Concentrated acids are used in the pickling units that are not adequately ventilated – leading to acid fumes in the work spaces. This increases the risk of respiratory illness among workers. Used acid is ultimately discharged into water bodies or soil, without any environmental safeguards.

Prem Nagar and Wazirpur areas are just two among the many frontline polluters. The three landfills in the city are also loaded beyond their capacity and there has been no effort to control the leachate, which might be causing grave concerns in the nearby settlements. Besides, there are several “legacy sites” that are not currently operational, but the waste deposits or contamination of past might be a cause for concern, as no remediation measures have been taken till date.

India has enacted several laws to safeguard environment but they have not been implemented strictly.

“Thousands of small and medium polluting enterprises, recycling units, unorganized markets exist in the state, whose activities are very polluting,” says Ravi Agarwal, Director, Toxics Link. He adds, “Unless we start addressing these concerns, we might be putting Delhi on the brink of an environmental disaster.”

This is the first time any report has done exhaustive mapping of Delhi’s polluting units. Such hotspots probably exist all over the country. More such studies need to be undertaken in other cities – as most of them currently are, or will be, facing similar challenges in the future.

Facts at a Glance:

  • This is the first-of-its-kind study undertaken to map Delhi’s polluting centres.
  • 18 out of 51 sites reviewed in the study were identified as ‘potential hotspots’ and were spread all across the city.
  • Some of these critical sites are Wazirpur, Mandoli, Old Seelampur, Anand Parvat, Moti Nagar and Mayapuri. (Full list in the report)
  • Hazardous activities like lead acid battery recycling, pickling, CFL processing, etc., are carried out in these areas. Toxic chemicals and acids are routinely released thereby contaminating the environment.
  • Most workers face occupational health risks and are unaware about the hazards involved.
  • All of these hotspots are located in and around residential areas, thereby increasing the risk of exposure to general public.

 

Check the following link to read/download the Full Report:
http://toxicslink.org/?q=content/edge-potential-hotspots-delhi

 

Source: Toxics Link.

 

About Toxics Link 

Toxics Link is an environmental research and advocacy organization set up in 1996 by The Just Environment Charitable Trust. It lays a special emphasis on reaching out to numerous grassroots groups; community based organizations and the public at large through its empirical study-based information on environmental issues. Toxics Link works closely with all other stakeholders working on similar issues and has played a seminal role in facilitating the development of several common platforms for them on the national, regional as well as international levels. Toxics Link works in the area of Community and Waste, Toxics-free Health Care, Clean Industry, Chemicals & Health and Information & Communication. It is based in New Delhi and has nodal offices in Kolkata in West Bengal. For more information, visit www.toxicslink.org

 

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