Even as the local industries in Ankleshwar industrial zone struggle to comply with the environment norms, the extension in moratorium by the union environment ministry has held up expansion projects and new investments worth Rs 15,000-20,000 crore, industry players claimed.
The expansion plans of the chemicals, pharmaceuticals and pigments industry have been stalled for about three years now.
Also, several new projects by domestic and international companies are unable to take shape due to the extension in moratorium a year ago.
"The industries have made good improvement on the environmental compliance part. But the moratorium has hampered the expansion and investment plans by the companies. The investment worth around Rs 20,000 crore by various companies is believed to have been held up," said Ravi Kapoor, managing director, Heubach Colour Pvt. Ltd. The pigments making company operates three plants at Ankleshwar.
The industrial zone, which houses a large number of small and medium players as well, was put under the critically polluted zones category and was facing the MoEF moratorium, which ended on March 2012. But the MoEF extended the moratorium on 18 such zones from April 2012 till the next order.
However, industries in Ankleshwar have taken several measures including setting up of multi-effect evaporation plant, recycling of low TDS water and installation of reverse osmosis (RO) plants at the respective units for zero discharge.
"Several industries in Ankleshwar have incurred major investments for environment cause. Now, Ankleshwar has some of the most efficient and green effluent treatment plants (ETPs) in the country," said an industry player, who heads a chemicals plant in Ankleshwar.
"Because of the moratorium in investments are chocked up. Potentially, about Rs 15-20,000 crore worth of fresh investments or expansion projects have been stalled due to this situation," said an official of Ankleshwar Industries Association - a local industries body.
Besides Ankleshwar, Gujarat has two more such industrial zones Ahmedabad and Vatva, which still remain under the MoEF moratorium.
While the moratorium being in force, any new projects or expansion of existing industrial units inside these polluted industrial clusters would not be allowed. The moratorium was first imposed in January 2010, and was extended later.
The MoEF has asked Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to provide an update on the progress of implementation of action plans, cluster by cluster, in various industrial clusters and their expected impact in terms of the improvement of the relevant pollution indicators.
Notably, the state pollution regulator, Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) had earlier this year issued warning to polluting industries in Ankleshwar to improve processing of their units to curtail pollution or face closure.
"In March, officials of the Central government had visited and inspected the region. They have also collected the samples from here. We expect that within a short time this moratorium will be lifted from Ankleshwar and new investments will be allowed," said another industry official.
The Ankleshwar region also houses leading national and multi-national chemicals, fertilizers and pharmaceuticals players including Bayer, Siemens, Lupin, Aventis Pharma, Sun Pharma, Asian Paints, Cadila Healthcare, Glenmark Generics, RPG Lifesciences, Meghmani Organics, Rallis India, Coromandel Fertilisers and United Phosphorous among others.