World Bank project brings state officials’ competence under scanner

KOLKATA, 31 OCT: The $28.9 million capacity building project on identification and remediation of contaminated hazardous waste dumpsites in the state funded by the World Bank and implemented by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) has made several officials of the board uncomfortable as it questions their competence.
A senior official of the WBPCB, who is also a member of the team constituted to carry out the project, said that the funds sanctioned by the World Bank is only enough to complete the initial process of identification and remediation of seven contaminated hazardous waste dumpsites in Hooghly.
“The court had ordered identification of illegal dump sites and find remedies. In Bengal, the National Productivity Council was appointed to do the survey and they identified eight sites in Howrah and Hooghly. The World Bank project will attempt remediation of such sites so that the contamination does not spread,” said Mr Shyamal Adhikari, senior environmental engineer at the waste management cell of WBPCB.
According to the WBPCB, there are 850 industries in the state that let out hazardous waste. Which means they have been dumping their waste at some place or the other. There may be other orphan sites.
“Under the project there will be an impact assessment, that is, how much of the waste has affected the ambient air quality, soil quality and the groundwater,” said Dr Dipak Chakraborty, chief scientist of WBPCB who has been designated as the deputy director of capacity building for industrial pollution management project.
“The remediation plan of the contaminated dumpsites would be handed over to the WBPCB by the World Bank. This way the World Bank is making it apparent that they do not trust in our competence,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
The project mentions identification of dumpsites with the help of remote sensing. However, in case of ‘legacy’ sites, type of contamination, extent and spillage of contamination has to be found. If a large housing complex is built on a contaminated site, will it be bulldozed? asked another official also a member of the team formed to implement the project. If an aquifer is contaminated the process may cost much more than the $28.9 million given by the World Bank, they added.
The project includes research on the state’s largest municipal solid waste dump at Dhapa. The board has also identified two sites in Durgapur, Khardah, Dankuni, Beldah in West Midnapore that could be severely contaminated.

Soma Basu

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