Industrialization - Certainly Yes, But Not at All Cost!

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Industrialization - Certainly Yes, But Not at All Cost!

Barun Barpujari | August 29, 2020 17:30 hrs

On the heels of the pandemic and the unfortunate return of the “migrant workers” to their homeland, the call for industrial development in Assam is growing and getting shriller. 


As the scepter of the Assembly election is also drawing closer, the Government is and will continue to act to impress those in the gallery, though not always in the best long term interest of the state, as we have witnessed in the recent past! Industries do provide employment and very often source inputs that are locally available, thereby benefitting the local populace. Hence, they are more than welcome, but certainly not at all cost.


Very often, the biggest casualty is the environment. Environmental degradation is there for all to see.  Unfortunately, not always have the industries been behaving and acting responsibly in this context. Nor has the entity whose primary responsibility is to ensure that industries behave responsibly and pollution is kept in check. In the end, the poor farmer and the poor common people suffer the most. Moreover, can we expect the public to act as a watchdog?


As regards public behavior and how responsibly a large section behaves in public space, does one really need to debateonthis when just one example would eloquently speak for itself? See what has been done to rivulet Bharalu – turning it into sewerage and without even batting an eyelid! 
 

With similar behavior across all towns in Assam, in not too distant a future, our rivers too will be turned into the likes of the Ganga and the Yamuna! In the name of development, leave a legacy for GenX to spend fortunes to cleanup! Look at our public places, the market places, how carelessly and nonchalantly littering and spitting is engaged in! 



Like in case of controlling the Covid-19 spread, in order to check spread of dirt and pollution, the focus would need to be on changing human behavior. This is where, unfortunately, not enough is being done. It is hoped that under the National Education Policy, 2020 announced recently, responsible personal behavior will be instilled in our children so that they grow up to behave more responsibly than the present generation.


Returning to the topic of this article, the government would do well not to destroy the USP (Unique Selling Point) of one industry in the name of industrialization. The tourism industry of Assam and the North Eastern Region banks on and in fact thrives on the exquisitely verdant and enchanting, un-trampled beauty of the region. Let industrial pollution not destroy this nature’s gift to us.


Industrialization in Assam has till date been largely in the domain of the Large Sector – Petroleum Refineries, Oil Exploration and Production, Power Plants, Fertilizer Plant, the  now defunct Paper Mills and of course, the Tea Industry. However, the way forward favours the MSME Sector. This sector, for all its positives, will not have the financial capacity to install and properly operate effective Effluent Treatment Plants/solid waste management systems on stand-alone basis. Therefore, all such units which are likely to generate liquid effluent and solid wastes should be installed inside Industrial Estates with common effluent treatment/ solid waste management facilities. 


Government would need to put in place and operate such common facilities through competent entities. The cost of installing and operating such facilities could be recovered from the industrial units availing the services of such facilities, thereby reducing the overheads on individual units. Moreover, cost of other services like security system could also be shared among the unit’s operating within the Estate. This could be the way forward at Industrialization without destroying our natural capital through industrial pollution. 


Assam 2030 – Our Dream, Our Commitment: The Vision & Strategic Architecture Document was launched by the present Government on July21, 2016. This vision document is aligned to United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and has the commitment of the Govt. of Assam to implement. 


Let us see what the relevant goal states: Goal No.15 – Life on Land: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.


What the Government now needs to show is that it walks the talk!

(With 38 years of rich and diverse experience in Energy & Sustainability areas, the author retired as Executive Director of IOCL. The views expressed in the article are his own.)

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