Some factories might not meet deadline and face possible shutdown

NEC: Pasakha and Bhalujhora industries in Phuentsholing have less than a week to reduce emissions and put control measures in place, according to the agreement they signed with the National Environment Commission secretariat (NECS) last November.

If the problem is not corrected, they will face being shut down.  Some companies will miss the deadline, given the progress of corrective works.

Some of the industries are constructing gas-cleaning plants (GCP), a system through which the hazardous emission is filtered before the fumes escape into the atmosphere.  Once complete, it takes at least about a week or more to install and commission after the equipment arrives.

Conditions of the agreement involved augmenting their designs to ensure no leakage of fumes, meeting the self-monitoring requirements that include doing pollution testing on their own, and general housekeeping issue.

A major problem for the industries has been procuring equipment for the plant.

Representatives of the industries said most of the equipment is procured from Kolkata and Mumbai.  While for some suppliers in these places have to import from other countries, because of which, industrialists say it took time.

Druk Wang Ferro Alloys limited (DWFAL) is waiting for the motor to complete its bag house for the GCP, Pelden Enterprise limited (PEL) and Ugyen Ferro Alloys Limited (UFAL) are waiting for parts to complete their plants.

DWFAL is investing about Nu  5M (million), while PEL and UFAL are investing about Nu 2.5M and  Nu 6M each respectively for construction of the plants, and to fulfil improvement in housekeeping and self-monitoring.

The industries together have hired accredited consultants from India to come up with a permanent monitoring mechanism.  They have also deployed a truck to sprinkle water on the road until monsoon.

Environment officer Tshering Dorji said the problem was mainly with the equipment, because they could not suck in the fumes as required.

However, he said there were substantial improvements in the emission of pollutants, as the factories implemented terms of the agreement.

The industries are currently conducting a weekly cleaning campaign, which started since December 2014.  The dusty areas are watered in a regular basis.

The industrialists have also formed a task force to conduct self-monitoring system.  A chairman was also appointed.  Terms of reference have been drafted and the taskforce wrote to NEC for its approval.

One of the allegations from the nearby public was that the factories put off their gas cleaning plant, letting out pollutants without cleaning.

The industries had set up smart meters that would show if the GCP plant has been put off, or whether the plant works in tandem with the furnace.

The environment officer said, “We’re coming up with a base line data on energy consumption of the GCP in a month.”

Unlike in the past, NECS will monitor the emission levels of the Pasakha industries online everyday.

NECS has floated a tender to procure a 360-degree CCTV camera with night vision, and another four industrial surveillance wireless cameras for Pasakha, and one for Bhalujora.  These would be controlled from the secretariat’s office in Thimphu.

The commission conducted stack emission test of all the industries to check whether the emissions from the industries are within the environmental standards, 2010.  It is analysing the data and will have the results by the end of this month.

NECS will meet industrialists to assess the performance against the agreement in the first week of next month.

“If the industries don’t comply according to the agreement, consequences would be heavy penalties or even shutting the unit until correctives measures are done,” Tshering Dorji said.

He said there are improvements with the major polluting units through the periodic reports and also from visits to the site.

NECS will install automatic air pollution measuring stations in Pasakha, Thimphu and Paro before June this year. Similar stations will also be installed in some select dzongkhags later this year.  ICIMOD office in Nepal has also committed to help procure pollution-measuring equipment.

NECS officials, after monitoring the air quality in the industrial estate on September 4 this year, found the pollution level exceeding the national environmental standard.

Officials said the particulate matter of diameter less than 10 micrograms, which is referred as PM10, in Pasakha and Bhalujhora was 271 microgram per cubic metre (µg per m3).  The set standard is 200 µg per m3.

The exceeding test result was for the wet season and officials suspect the pollution to be higher during dry season.  The maximum pollution recorded for dry season was 312 µg per m3 in November 2013.

Of the 37 industries in Pasakha and Bhalujhora, the major ones are a cement factory, two brewery and beverage industries, two carbide industries, eight ferro silicon and ferro alloys industries, five steel and rolling industries, a coke and chemical industry.

Tshering Palden and Rajesh Rai