Home Articles Zoning atlas: Programme overview

Zoning atlas: Programme overview

N. Raghu Babu
Environmental Engineer, Central Pollution Control Board
Parivesh Bhawan, East Arjun Nagar, Delhi – 110 032

Anand Kumar
Asst. Environmental Engineer
Central Pollution Control Board, Parivesh Bhawan,
East Arjun Nagar, Delhi – 110032

India is passing through a phase of rapid industrialisation and development. In the process of development, the issues confronting are to achieve desired socio-economic development on one hand and safeguarding of the environment and maintaining good quality living conditions on the other. Each developmental activity includes a land use. The environmentally relevant land uses that can pose impact on the environment include trade, industry, housing, surface transport, refuse/haz. waste and wastewater treatment installations, quarrying/mining, agriculture, recreation and tourism etc.

Of various developmental activities, the industrial activity has the potential to cause irreversible reactions in the environment and hence is posing a major threat. In case of industrial development, environmental impact assessment (EIA) has been conventionally used as a tool for permitting new projects. The inadequacies in the current procedures of environmental impact assessment and industrialisation include:

  • The targets for industrial development are fixed but the sites for these industries to come up are rarely pre-determined thereby paving the way for haphazard siting of industries.
  • The responsibility of selecting a site is primarily entrusted with the entrepreneurs and this does not necessarily lead to objective assessment of environmental aspects.
  • The information base available for evaluating environmental impacts and taking decisions on industrial siting is weak. Hence, it causes subjectivity in decision- making process as well as lack of transparency and delay.
  • Spatial planning (national/state/regional/town level) that internalises environmental considerations into various sectors viz. housing, traffic & transportation, industry etc. is lacking in the country. This has led to unbalanced development, increased influx into cities and formation of uneconomical agglomerations and ecologically degraded areas and over-exploitation of resources.
  • The increasing public interest litigation (PIL) for relocating environmentally incompatible land uses are indicative of the fact that the decisions in respect of siting industrial and other projects will be increasingly dictated by public opinion.
  • The environmental clearance by the regulatory authorities does not necessarily imply zero pollution from an industry.

From the above stated facts, it is evident that the major challenge is not just finding a site for an industry or a developmental activity but is finding a solution for achieving sustainable development. It is being increasingly realised that the developmental activities are to be planned in such a way that the socio-economic objectives are fulfilled without causing adverse impacts on the environment. The constraints to be taken into account for working out a viable approach are as follows:

  • In view of the existing social and living conditions, economic interests may tend to over-ride the environmental aspects;
  • Ecosystem are already over-used in some areas;
  • Introduction of spatial planning which involves highly complex nature of planning activities is a daunting task particularly in a large country, like India;
  • Lack of legal framework for spatial planning, dearth of financial resources, inadequate environmental awareness, shortage of manpower and limitations in technical competence are among the constraints in integration of environmental concerns in the development process.

In India, presently spatial planning approach is mostly limited to urban areas. This has been leading to unbalanced development and formation of uneconomic agglomerations on one hand and depleted ecological areas on the other. Spatial planning based on assessment of existing environmental profiles as well as potential assimilative capacity could help environmentally acceptable development and resolve the conflicts which are otherwise confronted with. Planning of activities based on assessment of local or regional environmental impacts could be a useful approach for introducing the concept of spatial planning in a limited manner under Indian conditions.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has taken initiatives towards introduction of environmental (spatial) planning as a tool for environmental protection. The present paper details the various activities of CPCB under the environmental planning programme.


The Programme
Acceptance of the environmental planning programme initiated by CPCB is growing fast. There is an increasing demand, to diversify the scope of the studies for environmentally compatible land management beyond the siting of industries. The programme has now been extended upto 2003 under the World bank-funded ‘Environment Management Capacity Building Programme’. The programme has been widened and several environmental planning activities at various levels, as below, have been taken up.

National Level Environmental Atlas of India (a compilation of environmental information presented in the form of maps, text, statistics etc.)

 Environmental Atlas for Metro Cities

(a depiction of trends of pollution for the metropolitan and other major cities in the country)
State Level Mapping of environmentally sensitive zones and industrial sites – State wise (provides information on environmentally sensitive zones such as national parks, sanctuaries, forests etc. in the are map)
District Level Zoning Atlas for Siting of Industries (zones and classifies the environment, District-wise, and provides information on environmentally sensitive zones and possible sites/zones for siting of industries)
Local Level Industrial Estate Planning (these studies, in continuation of the Zoning Atlas studies, help in identifying sites for industrial estates or growth centres or a cluster of industries.) 

Environmental Management Plan for Urban Areas (studies are targeted at identifying problems due to poor land use compatibility and lack of infrastructure in cities, and also to provide solutions. Planning authorities form cities are also being trained on environmental considerations in urban planning)

Other Activities Training, workshops and awareness programmes for Govt. bodies, NGOs, Industrial Associations etc. Environmental planning capacity building in the State Pollution Control Boards Pilot studies, Research

Details, in brief, of various activities initiated by CPCB are given below.

  • Environmental Atlas of India
    The Environmental Atlas of India is a compilation of all the environmentally related information presented in the form of maps and text including statistical data. This Atlas is scheduled to be released during year 2000. The scale adopted is 1:12 million for general maps and 1:2 million for detailed maps.
  • Environmental Atlas for Metro Cities
    The objective of the study on ‘Environmental Atlas for Metro Cities’ is to prepare an Environmental Atlas for the metro and other major cities showing the pollution data and its trends. The pollution data includes air quality, water quality, solid waste generation and disposal and noise pollution. The Atlas is being prepared in the scale of about 1:12 million (A3 size) and is scheduled to be released during year 2000.
  • Mapping of Environmentally Sensitive Zones and Industrial Sites – State-wise
    This activity aims at presenting the information on environmentally sensitive zones viz. national parks, reserved forests, protected forests etc. and industrial sites, state-wise, in the form of maps. These maps will prove to be a good data-base and will be highly useful in taking decisions on industrial sites. The pilot study for Bihar taken up in 1996 has been completed. During 1997-98, 11 States have been covered. Six more States were taken up during 1998-99.
  • Zoning Atlas for Siting of Industries – District-wise
    The Zoning Atlas for Siting of Industries zones and classifies the environment in a District and presents the pollution receiving potential of various sites/zones in the District and the possible alternate sites for industries, through easy-to-read maps. The industrial zones are identified based on the sensitivity and pollution receiving potential of the District.
    In the pilot phase during 1995-96, Zoning Atlas for 19 Districts in 14 States were completed. In the second phase during 1997-99 Zoning Atlas for 42 Districts were completed. About 50 priority Districts will be covered by 2001.
  • Industrial Estate Planning
    As a continuation of the Zoning Atlas study, the industrial estate planning studies are being taken up at a more micro-level (scale 1:50,000 and lower) to finally come up with sites for industrial estates. These studies will be highly useful to the State Government Departments, such as the Industrial Departments responsible for industrial development. Studies for fifteen sites will be completed by the year 2000.
  • Environmental Management Plan for Urban Areas
    The urban agglomerations in India are rapidly growing in terms of size, population and developmental activities. There has been increasing trend of pollution and thereby environmental impacts. Most of the impacts and risks can be reduced by proper planning of various activities. During 1996, pilot studies were initiated for preparation of environmental management plans for Kanpur Urban Area and the Port Town of Haldia. These studies helped in developing guidelines for conducting similar studies for other urban areas.


Training of Planners
The planning departments of cities and municipalities have a crucial role in environmentally compatible land use management, which plays a key role in achieving sustainable development. They, however, lack the needed instruments and skills to incorporate the results of environmental plans into urban planning. Environmentally compatible Masterplans and development plans are, therefore, practically non-existent. As a consequence, environmental conditions in many cities of India are rapidly deteriorating.

To bridge the gap between environment and urban planning, a series of training programmes are being conducted by CPCB for the planners from the Planning/Development Authorities

CPCB had successfully completed the work taken up in the first phase and second phase of the project. Initial efforts were put in to develop methodologies, test them and refine them. Also, efforts were put in to develop trained manpower and install the needed facilities.

The budget is now available for the period 1997 to 2003. Teams with qualified staff have been built at CPCB and at most SPCBs that are participating in the programme. The needed facilities and equipment are already installed at CPCB and are under installation at SPCBs. The needed data/information is being collected through participatory role of various resource organisations. An environmental database is being created with the expert organisations. The expertise of foreign agencies within the country and abroad is being utilised to produce high quality and reliable outputs in relatively shorter time using the latest technology (remote sensing, GIS etc.). Efforts are being put in to implement the results.

India is a vast country and has diversified regions. The solutions developed at CPCB had inputs from the German planning system, the pilot studies conducted for Pondicherry on planned industrial development by CPCB, the pilot studies conducted for Hassan District (Karnataka) by the Karnataka State Council for Science & Technology and GTZ and the experience of the engineers and scientists of CPCB. The environmental planning programme of CPCB includes many custom-made solutions. The studies were transferable to all parts of the country with modifications. Planned development is what everyone might like to have, but what has not been done over several years cannot be done over night. The solutions and experiences of CPCB could come handy for various organisations within the country.