Mumbai port`s coal handling jeopardises public health

Mumbai port`s coal handling jeopardises public health on december 14, 2006, the state environment appellate authority stayed an order of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board directing Mumbai Port Trust (mbpt) to stop handling of coal at its Haji Bunder jetty on environmental grounds. This is the second time that the appellate authority has put a stay on mpcb's directive on Haji Bunder jetty.

Earlier in October 2005, the board had issued a similar order to mbpt directing to refurbish its manual coal handling practices, which were otherwise causing air pollution and leading to serious health hazards in the vicinity. But mbpt secured a stay from the appellate authority saying it will soon adopt environmentally efficient practices.

"No progress has since been made, except that the board has received huge piles of complaints from local residents against high pollution load. This forced us to issue another notice to mbpt on December 11, 2006, directing to stop handling of coal at Haji Bunder jetty,' D B Boralkar, member secretary of mpcb said. Instead, mbpt has once again found an escape route in the appellate authority. In the December 14 order the authority states "the appellant (mbpt) has made out a case for grant of stay', and will file a detailed submission on the issue within two weeks. The case will now come up for hearing on January 3, 2007.
Troubled affair Earlier on m b pt's insistence, the appellate authority had appointed the Water and Power Consultancy Services (India) Ltd (wapcos), a public sector enterprise under the Union ministry of water resources, to assess whether the coal handling at the port was affecting the air and suggest remedial measures.

wapcos submitted its report on December 5, 2005. But it was neither in conformity with the prevailing environmental regulations nor covered the required technical aspects. wapcos submitted an updated report on January 2 this year. But this time mpcb contested the report.

The board thus conducted regular air quality monitoring and concluded that the levels of rspm (respirable suspended particulate matter) and spm (suspended particulate matter) in the ambient air of the port exceeded the standards under the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 (see table: In black & white, 2005-2006).

It also hired National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (neeri) to carry out the environmental impact assessment and air quality monitoring of the port and its vicinity. neeri submitted its report in May 2006.

The report, Environmental consideration of coal handling at Haji Bunder jetty, notes: "The huge quantity of coal being handled in a limited area with inefficient system of unloading and loading is the cause of major concern for deterioration of ambient air quality