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The North-Eastern India is the land of rising sun in the sub-continent. Assam and other seven sisters including Sikkim consist the whole landmass of the North-Eastern India. The green belt of India, so called land of forest and tribals, the entire north-east region is rich in its natural resources-oil, natural gas, minerals and most importantly valuable forests. The worlds largest river Island 'Majuli' is situated in the heart of the river Brahmaputra. The Kaziranga National Park in the Jorhat district of Assam is the home for the world famous one-homed rhinoceros. The place of highest rainfall in the world "Mousimam" is situated in Meghalaya.

Assam produces the largest share of tea that's nearly 53% of the all India production. Besides Assam; Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh & Tripura also contributing to the tea production, though output from these states is yet to gain momentum.

The north eastern region which was almost an environmental friendly region with maximum rainfall every year, green trees and green pasteur everywhere is non longer a tourist destination. Though the North-East is an industrially backward region, the existing industries, deforestation and flood are causing serious problem to the environment in the region.

The major environmental problems can be summarised as follows:

1. Deforestation

2. Flood

3. Industrial activities

a. Coal mining operation

b. Crude oil exploration

c. Petroleum refinery

d. Fertilizer industries

e. Paper industries

f. Cement industries

4. Automobile Exhaust Emission

5. Water quality of river Brahmaputra

 1. Deforestation: Inspite of the existence of several forest laws and regulation the forest of North-East is decaying. It is now an industry. The main share holder of the 'deforestation' industries is the Department of Forest having 40% share and the militant and surrendered militants share 60% of it. The ramp at felling of trees in Bodoland areas by the Bodomilitants, in Karbi Anglog by Karbi-militant groups and in other parts of Assam and North East reduce the forest cover below 25% which was earlier more than standard requirement of33%.

      The killing of rhinoceros for their horn and of elephants for their ivory by the pouchers with the help of greedy forest officials is a common phenomenon which is a great threat to he existence of endangered rhinoceros in Assam.

      2. Flood: Almost entire Assam get submerged twice or thrice yearly due to flood resulting loss of life and property. Flood causes severe damage to ecology, environment. Hundreds of wild animal including deers and rhinoceros' calves living in the Kaziranga National Park loss their lives in the stream of Brahmaputra every year due to flood. The river island 'Majuli' is loosing several hectares of land to the water of Brahmaputra every year, thus the very existence of the island is under threat.The major cities and town including Guwahati get submerged during flood and the municipal and other waste spread over the land causing several health hazards.

      Though flood is considered as natural calamity it has serious negative impact in economic development in the region. So, flood in Assam should be considered as a national problem and the Govt. of India should take initiative for controlling flood by constructing hydel / irrigation project / dams on the tributaries which is the best possible solution.

3. Industrial Activities:

a. Coal mining Operations: Excavation of Coal by Open Cast Mining through mechanised process is in progress at two places (at Tiklok and the other one is at Ledo- Tirap) in Upper Assam areas.

In the open mining for extraction of coal, the industry is at first removing the top soil, valuable trees vegetation etc. and the top soil cutting from the upper layer of the hillock above the coal seam are dumped in nearby areas. By doing so, a barren artificial hillock consisting of the rocks and debris is created in the place of the natural green hillocks. It is observed that the industry continued its   operation without considering the question of environmental preservation.

The degradation of environment associated with open cast mining observed in Upper Assam areas can be summarised as follows:

1. Destruction of high hillocks.

2. Creation of big ponds in place of high hillocks.

3. Destruction of vegetations and trees.

4. Destruction of top soil of excavated areas.

5. Soil erosion during rainy season in particular.

6. Raising of paddy fields surface.

7. Creation of ugly landscape.

8. Spreading out the undesirable debris from the mine to the nearby areas, rivers, stream etc.

9. Closing/stopping of flow of natural streams in the mining areas.

10. Damaging nearby agricultural fields by undesirable debris.

11. Discharge of acidic mine effluent into the nearby water courses, land etc. at the initiative the Government of Assam and Pollution Control Board the industry has undertaken several  environmental protection measures at the open cast mining areas in Upper Assam.

 Due to this, damage to the agricultural fields, water courses natural drains etc. has reduced to great extent and action has already been taken by the industry to recover the degraded area. They also commissioned an effluent treatment plant to treat their effluent in one of their mines. Measures have already been taken to set up Effluent Treatment Plant at their other mines.

      b. Crude Oil Exploration: Two major sector industries are extracting crude oil in the State. Their main operation are Drilling and Production. Most of the drilling sites are located in the paddy fields, low lying areas, forest areas, and in some case these are on the back or near the water courses.

      The pits, where drilling effluents are kept, are not scientifically constructed in most of the cases. Capacity of these pits are less, the height of bundhs is low and most of them are located in flood plain areas. Seepage is a common phenomenon from these pits due to which nearby areas are badly affected damaging agricultural fields, crops, vegetation, drinking water sources.

Water bodies, etc. are common in a place where drilling activities are in progress.

As per direction of Government of Assam and Pollution Control Board, Assam these industries are taking following steps to control pollution from drilling sites.

1. Providing waste pit near drilling locations.

2. Providing impervious layer in these pits.

3. Increasing capacity of Drilling well effluent pits. 4. Construction of concrete oil pits.

5. Construction of Ring bundh.

6. Provision of brick was around effluent pit.

7. Raising bundh above the highest flood level.

8. Skimming of floating oils from effluent pit.

Gases, wastewater and oil are separated in the production operation. Separated waste is flared up in an evaporation flare pit.

Due to constant upward movement of the flare and also due to poor construction of flare pit, seepage through the lakes takes place and it is causing problems to the nearby areas. Constant heat and light form the flare pits are also causing problem to the adjacent agricultural fields. Especially in  production of rice. In view of above the industries have been directed to take immediate steps to control pollution and the industries are initiating following steps to control pollution.

1. Commissioning of effluent treatment plant.

2. Providing asbestos sheet brick wall around the flare pits to prevent light and radiation of heat to the nearby areas.

3. Multiple flaring instead of single flaring.

4. Cold flaring of gas from October to December to safeguard the adjacent paddy cultivation.

c. Petroleum Refinery: There are four Refineries in the State. All the refineries            have constructed and commissioned their 'Effluent Treatment Plants' to treat their effluents. The effluents are meeting 'MINAS' qualitatively in most of the time and as such overall status of the petroleum refining industries is good.

      d. Fertilizer Industries: There is a major public sector fertilizer industry in Upper Assam area consisting of three units. These are all Natural Gas based Nitrogenous Fertilizer Units which manufacture Ammonia, Urea, Sulphuric Acid and Ammonium Sulphate. The following are the main pollution problems associated with the industry.

i)Discharge of ammonical effluents.

ii)Discharge of chromium bearing effluents.

iii)Discharge of Arsenic.

iv)Discharge of excess quantity of effluent during the power tips.

v)Release of Sulphur di-oxide into atmosphere.

vi)Release of oily effluents.

Considering the poor pollution control measures and constant failure in implementing the directives and guidelines of SPCB the issue was referred to the Central Pollution Control Board recently.

      e. Paper Industries: There are two public sector paper manufacturing units in Assam. They are producing one million ton of paper annually. Pollution problems from these mills are mainly –

  1.  Release of pollutants beyond limits
  2. Release of mercury bearing effluents.
  3. Dumping of lime sludge.
  4. Dumping fly ash.
  5. Release of coloured effluents.

As per the directions of the Pollution Control Board Assam the Units have already commissioned effluent treatment plants. However, monitoring conducted by Pollution Control Board, Assam indicated that the effluents are beyond permissible limits and measures taken are not satisfactory.

At the initiative of Pollution Control Board, the Government of Assam directed these industries to take immediate action so that pollution level could be brought within limit. The industries are also directed to switch over to another process of manufacturing where Mercury is not at all used.

The industries have been initiating following steps in the units to control pollutions ­

  1. Dumping of lime sludge in solid from at selected sites
  2. Reclamation of lime sludge disposal areas.
  3. Dumping of fly-ash in selected sites.
  4. Streamlining storm water drains
  5. Isolation COP area.
  6. Disposal of brine sludge in HDPE lined concrete pit.
  7. Routing all the effluents through ETP.
  8. Additional holding pits for collecting black liquor at the time of any eventuality.
  9. Recycling of the black liquor.
  10. Installation of Resin Tower Treatment Plant for mercury bearing effluents

 As per direction of the Board one of the industries switched over their existing CCP into Membrance Filter Technology.

     f. Cement Industries: At present three units are manufacturing cement in the State. One of them has vertical shaft kiln of 100 ton daily capacity. Of the remaining two - one in public sector having production capacity of 600 TPD and the other one is private sector with capacity 400 TPD.

 5. Automobile Exhaust Emission: In recent times the internal combustion engine powered vehicles (both petrol and diesel) have identified as one of the basic sources of air pollution in our urban centres and highways.

Testing and control measures of automobile pollutions rest on 'State Transport Authority' as per provisions of the 'Motor Vehicle Act'. Therefore, Pollution Control Boards are not directly related to the control of automobile exhaust emission. Even though, considering the problem and to understand the status of our vehicles plying on roads, Assam Pollution Control Board has carried out several rounds of 'Vehicle Emission survey' at eight important towns of Assam, viz., Guwhati, Jorhat, Dibrugarh, Sibsagar, Tinsukia, si1char, Moran and Bongaigaon.

 The survey reveals that the conditions of engine carburetor, fuel injection system etc. of Diesel, Petrol car or 2 and 3 wheelers are not satisfactory and only 24, 49, 16.74 and 34.19 percent (respectively) are within permissible limit.

 Such unauthorized emissions should immediately be prevented by the concerned authorities.

      6. Water Quality of River Brahmaputra: The river Brahmaputra is one of the greatest environmental assets of North East India. Pollution Control Board of Assam is always keeping a constant watch on the wholesomeness of the Water quality of the river and its tributaries. Previous and current monitoring conducted by the Board, reconnaissance survey carried out by Envirotech

(East) Pvt. Ltd., and recent detailed monitoring of the Water quality of the river and her tributaries so far studied reveal the following.

i)          Unlike other Indian rivers the Brahmaputra river water contains low concentration of
            organic load and concentration of minerals (i.e. dissolved inorganic solids) are within
            desired level.

ii)         Like other Indian rivers bacteriological water quality of the river system is poor for most             of  the reaches almost throughout the year.

All the available data show that bacteriologically the water quality of the river is not acceptable for most of the occasions. Concentration of total coliform which is a member of the class of biological indicators was found to have exceeded the tolerance limit for all reaches other river for most of the occasions and are in the range of 7.30 (MPM/IOOMI) to 4600 (MPN/100ml.) in the mains stream.

Fecal coliform count is also high for the most of the stretches for almost of the time of a year which indicates that the water is potentially harmful and may contain pathogenic organism: range of current finding-360 (MPN/IOOml) to 15000 (MPN/100ml) in the main stream.

Bacteriological contamination of river water may happen due to surface wash off by rain water which is seasonal and through discharge of raw sewage from towns or villages for continuous period.

To improve the water quality of this river system we have to reduce bacteriological pollution load on the rivers through better way of sewage disposal. It may pointed out that no township or city on the bank of the river has planned sewerage system. The raw sewage from human habitat is contaminating the river water continuously. In most of the cases raw urban sewage is discharged into the river through a number of unplanned drains. To avoid such hazards the sanitation systems of the habitats need to be improved as a whole and authorities of the towns and cities should take care to have integrated sewerage system and arrange appropriate treatment of the raw sewage before discharging into the river.

The Last but not the least, the illegal migrants problem (from Bangladesh) In Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya is also contributing to the environmental degradation of the region. Illiteracy, poverty, poor hygiene and mean for sustenance amongst the people are also contributing to a great extent to environmental degradation.

In order to prevent an environmental degradation Pollution Control Board, Assam has been discharging various duties and responsibilities as per provisions of the concerned Acts and Rules. In spite of all such efforts so far problems still persist and we are to address ourselves to their solution for creating a pollution free environment.

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Posted On:  Thursday, 11 October, 2012 - 17:51

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