un 17,2012 | 22:46

The Ministry of Environment deserves to be commended for adopting bold and effective measures to combat pollution and improve the quality of the air we breathe and water we drink by now requiring industries across the board to become equipped with sensors to measure and monitor their emissions.

This plan of action is being applied in accordance with a new national policy intended to curb pollution and stop the threat to the safety and quality of the air and water in the country.

The ministry’s move came in the wake of the revelation that respiratory ailments and allergies are on the rise in a dramatic way, especially among children. It was found, for example, that respiratory illnesses among children have increased from 15 per cent a decade ago to 18 per cent in 2010. The increase is noticeable among adults; it rose from 12 per cent in 2001 to 15 per cent in 2010. More updated data may show even higher levels.

As per the ministry’s plan, it would be linked, through sensors, with various industrial estates, keeping a watchful eye on them. The plan covers, inter alia, the chemical, steel and cement factories.

But if the plan sounds good in principle, it is not enough. It will be interesting to know what the ministry intends to do with the data collected from the sensors. What are the guidelines it intends to use to make the various industries affected by this new plan go by?

Better still, how does the ministry ensure accountability? What are the penalties imposed on those found polluting?

It would seem that in the absence of legislation pertaining to the environment, prescribing the maximum level of pollution and everything it involves, the ministry may not be able to penalise industries that continue to contaminate the atmosphere.

There is need of rules and regulations on the basis of which the ministry can judge industries’ compliance. With no benchmarks and indicators by which to pursue such ambitious plan, it could stay just good intentions. And that is not going to help; not the citizens and not the country.