The River Regulation Zone (RRZ) policy notified by the former Congress-Nationalist Congress Party government, to curb industrial pollution along the state’s river basin is now history. The policy regulated setting up of industries along river banks.

The Devendra Fadnavis-led government decided to scrap the policy because it was seen as a hindrance to its Make in Maharashtra initiative, which aims to make the state more industry friendly and improve business culture.
HT had first reported that the state was seriously considering scrapping the policy.

“Instead of having another regulatory authority for environment that in any case did not improve the quality of our rivers, we will now focus on ways to actually prevent pollution by ensuring industries install effluent treatment plants,’’ said a senior bureaucrat, on condition of anonymity.

The decision to scrap the policy, however, comes even as the parent environment department registered its protest saying there is a need for such a preventive policy to avoid rampant pollution.

Interestingly, more than a decade after the policy was first notified in 2000, the law and judiciary department has now opined that it was never valid in law because it had been derived from the Centre’s Environment Protection Act, 1986 and not through a separate state law.

“The existing policy does not have the sanctity because the state does not have the powers to notify policies based on Central laws. Instead of having such artificial control lines, we will now have third party audits conducted by empanelled environmental scientists to decide whether industries are indeed following pollution norms,” the senior bureaucrat said.

If an audit states a particular industry is violating norms or does not have the requisite technology, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) will ban it. The state also plans to make audit ratings for an industry public so that there is a check on the enforcement by the pollution board.

Officials from the environment department, however, felt this is easier said than done given that effluent treatment plants are expensive and most industries cut corners when it comes to installing and operating them.
Consider this. Out of the 230-odd state designated industrial enclaves, only 24 have Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETP). “Maybe one or two of these CETPs function properly in our MIDCs, forget private industries,’’ said an environment official, on condition of anonymity.

Just last week, Fadnavis had cleared an industrial project proposed in Pune’s Chakan area that had been stuck for want of clearance under the RRZ policy for the last one-and-a-half years. His government is looking at a complete overhaul of laws to push the Make in Maharashtra initiative.