Surat Airport Receives Show Cause Notice from GPCB for Environmental Violation
GPCB officials from the Surat regional office conducted an inspection on May 23, 2023, to verify the consent to operate the STP and assess compliance with the conditions specified in the consent order. The inspection revealed several discrepancies regarding the airport's environmental obligations.
Surat: The Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) has issued a show cause notice to Surat airport, highlighting the breach of Environment Clearance (EC) conditions and the non-operation of the Sewage Treatment Plant (STP). The notice comes in response to a complaint lodged by an aviation enthusiast with the Central Public Grievance Redress and Monitoring System (CPGRMS).
As per the water balance chart prepared by AAI consultant M/s Gaurang Environmental Solutions Private Limited, the requirement was calculated to be 779 KLD, out of which 301 KLD was planned to be drawn from the SMC supply and approximately 478 KLD from the STP treated water. However, the show cause notice issued by GPCB reveals that the STP being constructed has a capacity of only 210 KLD, which falls significantly short of the expected capacity required for processing the human waste.
GPCB officials from the Surat regional office conducted an inspection on May 23, 2023, to verify the consent to operate the STP and assess compliance with the conditions specified in the consent order. The inspection revealed several discrepancies regarding the airport’s environmental obligations.
One of the key findings was that the Environment Clearance (EC) obtained on January 5, 2021, allowed for sewage generation of 488 kiloliters per day (KLD), whereas the installed STP capacity was only 210 KLD. Additionally, the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) permission for the discharge of sewage into the SMC drainage line had not been submitted, and the compliance report for the instructions issued during the inspection was also missing.
In light of these violations, GPCB has issued a show cause notice to Surat airport under the powers vested in the board by Section 33(A), Section 25/26 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974. The airport authorities have been instructed to clarify the discrepancies and submit the mandatory documents within the stipulated timeframe of 30 days. Failure to comply may result in legal action, including the rejection of applications and the suspension or closure of the unit.
The issue raises concerns about the impending inauguration of the Surat airport’s terminal building, which is part of the “Holistic development of Surat airport” project with an estimated cost of Rs 353 crore. The expansion project aims to increase the terminal building area from 8,474 square meters to 25,520 square meters, with a capacity to handle 1,200 domestic and 600 international passengers per day. However, the non-compliance with environmental regulations casts a shadow over the project’s adherence to the government’s vision for global environmental reforms.
The need for a Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) was outlined in the original Environment Clearance (EC) granted in 2007 when the existing terminal building was constructed. However, the airport authorities neglected this mandatory condition, leading to the disposal of human waste generated by passengers, AAI staff, food court, and visitors into septic tanks and later into the SMC drainage system. This improper discharge not only violated environmental regulations but also burdened the public utility system.
The issue of non-compliance with the EC for the existing terminal building came to light when AAI-Surat applied for EC for the terminal building expansion project under the Holistic development program. The Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change reviewed the project and noted that the certified compliance report for the existing terminal building, granted in 2007, had not been submitted.
The airport authorities had not obtained the necessary certified compliance report, which became a major reason for the non-approval of the EC for the terminal building expansion. Consequently, the project experienced significant delays, with almost a year passing without any substantial progress in 2019.
The Surat airport, operated by the Airports Authority of India (AAI), has been striving to adopt sustainable and environmentally friendly practices through the implementation of the Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA) system. The new buildings constructed at the airport are designed in accordance with the Energy Conservation Building Code (ECBC) norms and have obtained a 4-star GRIHA rating. However, the inadequate capacity of the STP contradicts the data provided by AAI-Surat during the acquisition of the Environment Clearance (EC) for the terminal building expansion project.
The show cause notice issued by GPCB signifies the seriousness of the violations and the necessity for Surat airport authorities to rectify the situation promptly. Failure to comply with the notice could lead to legal repercussions, including the rejection of applications and the suspension or closure of the airport.