UNDERLINING that Mumbai, despite its coastal geography, now faces “severe air pollution,” Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman linked it to the challenge of waste management in the city and said she was willing to put her weight behind possible, local solutions.
Speaking at a special post-budget meeting here Saturday, Sitharaman was replying to a question by Anant Goenka, Executive Director, The Indian Express, on the worsening air quality in Mumbai and what could be done “realistically” to help and convince industry to adopt more renewable energy in their manufacturing practices.
“There was a time when we thought that landlocked cities and towns suffer from very severe air pollution,” said Sitharaman. “I take the example of Delhi, which is, unfortunately, severely affected. Also, many solutions are being discussed but we have not seen considerable progress.” She said there was a perception that “the sea does the good cleaning job for us every day,” but, clearly, Mumbai had been hit hard.
Flagging the challenge of waste-management, she said: “(The Budget) is not only talking about greening ourselves or transitioning from fossil fuel to renewables. It is also talking about waste management. How do you treat liquid waste, humongous dry waste in metropolitan cities where our population is such that there is disproportionate planning for managing dry waste and you end up with huge piles of dumps which create gaseous elements leading to air pollution.”
Sitharaman added that to ensure better environmental management, the Centre incentivises various borrowings for states, by applying norms of better urban planning and waste management.
“Some states are very good in responding, to clean up, to give better air and environment. But many others do not respond, thinking it is a burden. But these are the ways that we are trying to incentivise. Both, in treating our waste and better urban planning and also (encouraging) effluent treatment plants…these make a big difference,” she said.
In this context, she cited the example of Erode in Tamil Nadu where local industry got together to clean up the Bhavani river which was polluted by effluents from dyeing units. As Commerce Minister, she said, she had helped push the initiative.
“The river has revived, the same industry cluster now supplies usable water to households… There are so many things for which you can come up with solutions,” she said. “The moment you come together and tell us, here is how we will make a difference, then we are ready to help you.”
She said she would like to see business leaders mobilising Mumbai and Mumbaikars to form “clusters for waste treatment.” And that she was more than willing to do whatever she could if her Ministry received such proposals.
“I am sure the state government will be quite happy to formulate and forward it to the Central government. And although I am not from Maharashtra, I must say that it deserves a lot more. I am sure the Deputy Chief Minister (Devendra Fadnavis) who is present here will forward it,” she said.
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