Shifting Paradigms of Environmental Management

In the past few decades there has been an all around awareness of environmental degradation caused by industrial activities on account of green house gas emissions, stratospheric ozone depletion, acid rain and acidification, eutrophication, soil degradation, technological hazards, chemical mists and fog with potential damage to human race. Environmental considerations therefore assumed importance in the area of industrial processing, which contributed to the generation of effluents and emissions capable of degrading environment. Thus, industry operators are challenged on the one hand with the dire necessity of increasing production while on the other the consequential environmental issues also have to be tackled effectively to avoid damages to the community. Effective environmental management thus, assumes paramount importance, in this perspective, to address the numerous issues relating to pollution control and ensuring safety in order to minimize the degradation of the environment as a result of developmental activities.

The growth of industrial processing all these years has been guided mostly by the necessity of increasing production. This has led to serious environmental degradation of water resources, soil and air around these plants. Worldwide the focus of pollution control in the industry has shifted from end of pipe treatment to source reduction, avoiding pollution, clean technology and sustainable development. Hence, it has become imperative that environmental considerations shall play a substantive role in the future development of the industry especially at a time when more and more industrial activities are being undertaken in the developing countries. In the recent years, several studies in different parts of the world focused this issue with the objective of identifying key issues in environmental protection in the different industrial processes, assessing as to what extent the national and international norms or guidelines regarding pollution control and environmental management are implemented in the industries, understanding the problems encountered in environmental management and exploring the reasons for the non-compliance. Suggestions were also made on the basis of the above studies to develop guidelines of an environmental policy that will foster development with out degrading the environment.

Status of Environmental Management
Today, most industrial processing units, be it in the developed or developing countries, have specific environmental policies and their emissions, effluents and waste disposal are guided by the stipulations of the state regulatory authorities. New plants that are being built have modern technologies where considerable technology integration has taken place at the inception stage itself to see that pollution prevention is a part of the process design itself. Other units, which came to existence long back, are now operated with additionally built state of art pollution control facilities. The pollution and environment control departments attached to the plants usually exhibit meticulous care to see that the above objective is achieved. Thus, now-a-days effective control facilities exist in most of the processing units and they are operated with due diligence. The stipulations of the pollution control and environmental protection agencies are also within the achievable limits of the available technology. Still excursions, at times, occur in the parameters on account of start up, shut down of plants or may be due to accidental situations. Existing facilities are capable of handling such situations also. Several national as well as international standards covering a wide range of parameters have been developed to specify the emissions and effluents. These include pH, ammoniacal nitrogen, nitrates, fluorides, phosphates, total suspended solids, oils and fats and chemical and biological oxygen demands in the effluent streams, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, sulphur oxides and carbon monoxide in exhaust streams. Radioactivity, toxicity, presence of heavy metals, organics, biological pollutants and pathogens etc are also monitored in specific cases.

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