Don t flout norms

Don t flout norms in a crackdown of unprecedented proportions, the Central Pollution Control Board (cpcb) has directed Birla Power Solutions (bps) to recall all two-stroke generator sets that it manufactured from June 2001 onwards. The company faces this stringent punitive measure because despite making claims to the contrary, it has been allegedly selling products that do not comply with phase-II emission norms for petrol and kerosene gensets. bps has been told to rectify the defect and ensure that the withdrawn products conform to permissible emission limits before they are returned to the customers. The significance of the order can be gauged from the fact that the generator-maker controls 32 per cent of the country's market.

In the order passed by cpcb chairperson, V Rajagopalan, the company has been asked to complete the recall within two years. It is also required to submit a bank guarantee of Rs 1 crore, which will stand forfeited if it fails to abide by the cpcb order. While bps refused to go into the details of the matter, company president S Khazanchi said: "We have just received the directions and are evaluating the situation.'

The cpcb initiated proceedings against bps on April 7 by invoking section 5 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986. As per this, the Union government is empowered to issue legally binding directions to "any person, officer or any authority' for closure, prohibition or regulation of any industry, operation or process.

The cpcb established the first phase of emission norms in October 1999, which were enforced from June 2000. The more severe phase-II standards were implemented from June 2001. These are so stringent that they cannot be met by any two-stroke genset without a catalytic converter, points out H B Mathur, chairperson of the technical committee that set the norms.

Even as the phase-II norms came into force and other manufacturers fell in line, bps is said to have continued making two-stroke gensets without catalytic converters. On receiving complaints, cpcb officials inspected the bps manufacturing plant at Lal Tappar, near Dehradun, in August 2003. They assert that the company could not show them any two-stroke genset fitted with a catalytic converter. Suspecting foul play, the cpcb issued a legal notice to bps in January 2004, asking it to demonstrate the generators' compliance with emission norms.

The company maintained that the two-stroke gensets it was selling were fitted with catalytic converters. But it could neither provide any specifications regarding these devices nor furnish information about any source from where they could have been purchased. Yet, according to the cpcb, it had earlier managed to obtain a type approval certificate for these products from the Indian Institute of Petroleum, Dehradun. The certificate clearly stated that bps generator sets met phase-ii emission norms.

According to the minutes of a meeting held between cpcb and bps officials on April 2: "They (the bps officials) could not confirm the source from where these catalytic converters were procured, thereby accepting that non-compliant two-stroke gensets have been dispatched by their company.' Notwithstanding the cpcb's clampdown, it is not clear how bps will conduct the recall. It has told the cpcb that it sold 4,779 two-stroke gensets in the domestic market from June 2001 to August 2003. Tracking down each of these and tweaking them to meet emission norms would be a gargantuan task, requiring an intricate mechanism.

For instance, automobile manufacturers in the us have to notify all registered owners of their vehicles about the problem in the particular model. This notification informs consumers about all aspects of the recall work, among other things. Manufacturers are also required to publicise recalls through other methods like advertisements and point-of-purchase posters. It remains to be seen whether bps adopts such comprehensive measures.

Meanwhile, bps has also run into trouble with regard to noise pollution standards. The cpcb contends that the company continued selling gensets that violated decibel limits, for six months after the norm was implemented in September 2002. The board has now asked the company to prove, within 15 days, that the gensets sold by it during that period had the stipulated acoustic hoods for controlling noise pollution.

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