On November 20, 2020, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) issued a notification to increase the annual CFO (Consent For Operation) charges steeply.
This notification is applicable to all Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs), including the ones operated by Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) and the private ones operated by the apartments, hospitals, malls, office complexes, IT parks, and others.
There are major issues with increasing the annual CFO charges. Here are some of the issues listed:
1. KSPCB levies CFO charges only from 40 per cent of the public who treat their sewage in their own STP or BWSSB-run STPs. It does not levy anything on the whopping 60 per cent of the population — They are left free to pollute the environment.
This is highly unfair and violates the polluter pays, cost minimisation and equity principles enshrined in the National Environment Policy (NEP), 2006.
2. KSPCB applies very high Consent For Establishment (CFE) fees to domestic STPs because it holds that domestic STPs cause hazardous pollution that is at par with nuclear power plants, refineries, tanneries, steel foundries, etc (see appendix-B).
This is a ridiculous stand. Even if domestic sewage is left untreated, it does not pose a danger that is comparable to the pollution from the other entities.
Well, if we compare the day-to-day pollution, no apartment will match a refinery or a tannery. On the other hand, if we compare the pollution caused when the plant fails, no apartment can match a nuclear plant or a refinery.
3. KSPCB has no logic in hiking the CFO charges
- The charges are arbitrarily set: They are not structured like a fee, fine, tax or fund. (see appendix-C)
- The charges are not designed to nudge or encourage people to treat their own pollution. In fact, law-abiding citizens are given step-motherly treatment. (see appendix-D)
4. The original idea was to create a corpus for KSPCB, so that it can fulfil its duties that are defined in various Acts, such as the Water Pollution Act, 1974, and the Air Pollution Act, 1981.
According to the Water Act, this corpus was supposed to be utilised to arrest the degradation of the environment, as follows:
- City-wide planning of sewage treatment infrastructure
- Introduce new technologies (sponsor research)
- Encourage industries (provide subsidies)
- Educate builders about new technologies in STPs, bioremediation, etc
- Educate users about water conservation, recycle and reuse
- Monitor compliance with policies through audits
But in reality, KSPCB fails to fulfill almost all of its official duties.
Why should KSPCB be allowed to amass money if it is not spent to fulfil KSPCB’s duties?
5. KSPCB refuses to accept that the CFE-CFO are given only if the STP passes rigorous checks and tests, and therefore they represent a certificate of guaranteed performance to the users.
6. In fact, KSPCB tends to raise even fundamental design flaws in STPs that have been running for years. Thus having CFE-CFO has no value. If so, why do we have to pay such a high price for these certificates if they are so worthless?
7. If an STP has CFE-CFO and yet it is found to pollute the environment, then KSPCB inspector must be held responsible for dereliction of duty, and KSPCB must compensate the STP owner under the law of torts.
Even the NEP enshrines the principle of “legal liability”, which further defines “fault-based liability” and “strict liability”. However, KSPCB refuses to accept any liabilities.
In that case, KSPCB has no purpose left to amass wealth.
1. All apartments, regardless of size, should be considered as “white category”
2. Restructure the CFE-CFO fees to nudge people to follow NEP principles
Specifically, differential treatment must be given to the three classes of populations described in the appendix-D, so that the self-treaters get incentives, while the polluters get punished
Further, the cost of pollution treatment must be distributed equitably. That means STP-owners must be compensated.
3. KSPCB should start fulfilling all its duties listed in the Water Act, 1974; which are neglected for the last 15 years, since its inception (a short list is given in point number 4 of the major issues listed).
- Why sewage treatment plants in apartments are messed up, and how this can change
- “Fining apartment owners for faulty sewage treatment plants is unjust”
- How a Bengaluru apartment fixed its sewage treatment process
- Faulty sewage treatment plant in your apartment? Pollution Control Board may be liable, not you