Gujarat’s troubling environmental record
Gautam Appa examines Gujarat’s environmental record and finds little interest at the state government level in implementing protection measures both before and during Narendra Modi’s tenure as Chief Minister.
“Gujarat has given priority to protect the environment along with development in industrial sector and has done well to protect the environment,” claimed BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi while addressing a gathering in August 2013. This was an amazing claim because:
The Central Pollution Control Board of India declared Gujarat to be the most polluted state in 2010
Due to critical levels of pollution, the central government’s Ministry of Environment and Forests in 2010 banned all new projects and expansion of existing ones in the industrial cluster of Vapi in Southern Gujarat
The Central Pollution Control Board in 2012 declared three Gujarat rivers to be the most polluted in India
The story of environmental degradation in Gujarat going side by side with its industrial growth pre-dates Modi’s running of the state. Since the nineteenth century, Ahmedabad, the commercial capital of Gujarat, has led the way in large-scale cotton textile production. Surat, the second-largest city in the state, is known as the diamond hub of the world, and is also the textile hub of India, producing synthetic fibres and silk that have earned it the sobriquet of ‘Silk City’. With more than 500,000 powerlooms preparing grey fabrics and 450 dyeing and printing machines engaged in processing synthetic fabrics, Surat accounts for 40 per cent of India’s fabrics exports.
Further, ancillary industries have sprung up to service the growth of industries in Ahmedabad and Surat. The ‘Golden Corridor’, a 400-kilometre-long strip that stretches from Vapi to Mehasana near Ahmedabad, has also seen the growth of more than 50 industrial estates. Most house a thousand small- and medium-scale factories manufacturing petrochemicals, pesticides, dyes, paints, fertilizers, chemicals and industrial goods.
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