The concept of industrial clusters or estates has been the center piece for industrial development in India for the last so many years and there are many such clusters set up by the State enterprises vested with the task of identifying suitable area, acquiring them, developing the needed infrastructure including power, feeder roads, water and pollution abatement. To day the same concept is the basis for the industry parks being set up either by private players or government agencies or as collaborative ventures. The major difference is that the earlier clusters had multidisciplinary industrial units while to day's parks are specialized entities dealing with same category of products. Thus there are Food Parks, Electronic Parks, Textile Parks etc coming up in different parts of the country.
The Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MEF) of the Federal Government has the onerous task of protecting the citizens from environmental degradation through pollution and preservation of the forest resources that play an important role in preventing global warming. The Pollution Control Boards at the state level are the executive agencies and new industrial units are subjected to surveillance and monitoring by these Boards. Major projects, infrastructural as well as industrial, with potential impact on forest degradation must have environmental clearance from the Center. If these checks and balances work properly there can be no apprehension about industrial pollution in this country. The Kerala fiasco vis-à-vis Coca Cola company in Palghat district, a few years ago, could have been avoided if proper assessment was done regarding the impact of large scale water extraction by the manufacturer on the population nearby.
Realizing that the country must take up an active program to monitor the functioning of industrial clusters located near many cities, MEF has recently took up a study to assess the pollution caused by the industry located there and the findings turned out to be alarming. MEF assessed the level of pollution vis-à-vis air, land and water on a scale of hundred and ranked 88 such clusters based on their polluting potential. It turned out hat 43 of these clusters have reached a level on the pollution scale considered alarming and further 10 amongst them were considered critical. As a policy measure GOI wanted to stop any further expansion of these clusters till proper study is conducted regarding the impact of pollution to people, food chain as a whole and the water resources in the area where the clusters are working.
MEF must be congratulated for its initiative in this respect and deserves full kudos for reposing confidence on technical institutions like IIITs which were partners in this project. In contrast there is a Ministry for Food Processing Industry (MFPI) at Delhi, staffed by heavily top loaded bureaucrats who does not feel that the food technologists in the country are as competent as them in deciding on matters pertaining to food processing industry. The technical services offered by the premier food technologists group in the country, Association of Food Scientists and Technologists (AFSTI) during the last one decade were spurned by this Ministry and the result is there for all to see! Probably for good things to happen for the food sector, the industry may have to wait for the arrival of a visionary minister like the one heading MEF currently.