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Coal shortage: Mandate use of natural gas in industries, says PIL in Gujarat HC

In a public interest litigation before the Gujarat High Court highlighting the poor air ambient quality in Gujarat, a petitioner, in an affidavit dated October 11, has submitted that the recent coal shortage is a fit case for the court to issue directions mandating use of natural gas in all industries, thus switching over from the more polluting fuel of coal.

The PIL filed by advocate Amit Panchal, appearing as party-in-person, has highlighted air polluting industries that uses coal and lignite and the need to adhere to permissible pollution standards.

In a reply affidavit, Panchal has stated that the role of PNG/LNG in the reduction of air pollution has been recognised by other states. In view of rising pollution, the use of PNG has been made mandatory in all industrial units in Delhi-NCR. “…Given the rising levels of pollution in the state, it is of utmost importance that industries are directed to immediately switch to the use of PNG/LNG.”

“…use of coal in an unsustainable manner has led to an alarming increase in air pollution. Recent reports suggest that the country’s current supply of coal will only last a few days. If adequate supply is not secured immediately, it is likely to lead to widespread blackouts. I say this is a fit case for this Court to issue a mandamus mandating the use of PNG/CNG in all industrial units,” Panchal further says.

A division bench of the Gujarat HC is expected to take up the matter for hearing next on October 14.

The Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), through an affidavit dated October 6 filed in reply to Panchal’s plea, had submitted that not only GPCB “but even the state and central governments are worried about air pollution caused by the industries”, and “a long-term measure has been adopted” to find a permanent solution.

The reply affidavit filed by Shivani Bhargava, deputy environment engineer at GPCB, states that while the Central Pollution Control Board has declared Vadodara, Ankleshwar, Vapi, Surat, Rajkot and Vatva as “critically polluted”, the CPCB has also declared Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara and Rajkot on the list of 102 “non–attainment cities”, or cities that do not meet with the acceptable levels of National Ambient Air Quality Standards as prescribed under the Air Act, across the country.

According to GPCB, an action plan, which include restricting vehicles older than 15 years from plying, enforcing “strict measures over industries”, installation of air pollution devices and “adoption of cleaner technology in brick kilns”, has been prepared and approved for implementation in the four cities. Responding to GPCB’s submissions, Panchal has submitted that GPCB’s affidavit is bereft of any details regarding the steps taken to curb air pollution. Even regarding the steps taken as mentioned by GPCB, “the same has not helped control or reduce the level of pollution in Gujarat.”

Ahmedabad’s average air quality has seen a significant decline. Against the national acceptable standard of 60 microgram per cubic metre of PM10, Ahmedabad saw the concentration range between 150-192 microgram per cubic metre in 2017-18 vis-a-vis a range of 110-114 microgram per cubic metre in 2016-17.

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