“Did you know that your city is often referred to as a ‘gas chamber’?” asks the speaker. The students start giggling. Then as they are told about the health impacts of air pollution, a worrying silence dawns on their faces. For these environment science students from Chandrapur’s Bajaj Polytechnic College, breathing in toxic air has become the ‘new’ normal. “But if we get together, we can drive change”, responds a student who is participating in an awareness workshop on the Maharashtra Star Rating program, a first-of-its-kind in India to rate large industrial plants based on their emission.
With more than 75000 industries, Maharashtra is the second largest industrial state and air pollution is an obvious menace. With an emphasis placed on information disclosure, the Star Rating initiative gives out one star to those polluting most and five stars to those who pollute the least. Dr. P. Anbalagan, Member Secretary of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board says, “Common people had no platform up until now to raise their voice or register complaints against air pollution. Though we have regional offices in every district, this platform gives a dynamic overview of an industry’s emission status to the people. They can check all industries who have a potential to cause air pollution. If people participate pro-actively in this program, we can ensure a Maharashtra with clean air.”
This MPCB Program, being carried out with support from researchers of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago’s India team (EPIC-India), Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) at Harvard Kennedy School, Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) and Tata Centre for Development at UChicago (TCD), currently covers over 250 industries across 30 districts. The program aims to expand to include hundreds of more industries across all 36 districts in the coming months.