Railways yet to formulate policy to curb pollution
New Delhi: Comptroller and Auditor General has found that the Railways is yet to formulate comprehensive guidelines for handling and transportation of bulk commodities which are pollution intensive.
"No specific criteria have been laid down by the Railway Board to assess the performance of each zone in minimising environmental pollution," CAG has observed in its latest report tabled in Parliament on Thursday.
According to Air Prevention and Control of Pollution Act 1981, all sidings and goods sheds should obtain consent for operation from their respective state pollution control boards.
The zonal railway administrations failed to adhere to the statutory provisions in respect of 50 per cent of the sidings test checked, it observed.
CAG has said that guidelines issued by West Bengal and Jharkhand pollution control boards were also not fully complied with in both Eastern Railway and South Eastern Railway in the good sheds and sidings test checked.
It has found that in most of the zones, coal and iron were being carried in open wagons without covering with tarpaulin sheets thus posing a health hazard to residents in neighbouring areas.
Railway Board has instructed that efficient treatment plants be installed at all major stations. On an average, one effluent treatment plant was installed in each zone leaving most of the major stations without such a plant.
In the absence of treatment plants, CAG has found that effluents were being discharged in the nearby low lying areas and water bodies and municipal drainage system resulting in contamination of surrounding surface and ground water.
Railways had directed that water recycling plants be provided at locations where water is scarce. Tests revealed that 12 out of 17 zones had no provision of water recycling plants. The water recycling plants installed in three zones were sub-optimally utilised.
Despite Railways' instruction that automatic coach wash plants be planned for all coaching depots, only eight such plants had been commissioned over five years, it observed.
The CAG also found that only seven stations have installed water harvesting system out of 212 stations checked by it.
It found that bio-diesel was used in only five zones and its consumption was insignificant. The initiative of Railways for production of bio-diesel remained largely unsuccessful due to short supply of raw material and now slow progress in setting up of esterification plants.
CAG has noted that the Railways have failed in making major progress in tapping solar and wind energy. It was observed that the overall achievement in electrification of level crossings with solar panels was far below the targets set for the period 2007-11.
Taking note of the rise in animal mortality rate, it has noted that despite some initiatives like imposition of permanent restrictions, display of signages and regular clearance of vegetation along the track, animal mortality rate due to train hit had not declined.
Sixty-seven animals died during the review period of 2006-11 which included 62 elephants and one lion.
CAG observed that the Railways is yet to finalise the technology for green toilets despite two decades of experimentation. Open discharge of toilets from running trains led to premature renewal of 47 km of rail line in South Eastern Railway and resulted in an excess expenditure of Rs 35.79 cr during 2007-11.
Railways transports about 14 million passengers every day and generates about 3980 million tonnes of human wastes per day which is discharged directly on to the rail tracks. This pollutes the environment at both stations and alongside the tracks.