No manufacturing units in new industrial areas: Kejriwal

No manufacturing unit will be allowed in any new industrial area in Delhi, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said on Monday, announcing what he called a “historic and significant” step aimed at reducing pollution levels in the national capital in the long run.

Only high-tech and services industries will be permitted in these areas and they will be offered space at cheaper rates, he said at an online press briefing, hoping that the move will also boost Delhi’s economy by attracting firms that would have otherwise preferred the satellites towns of Noida and Gurugram.

He also said the Union ministry of housing and urban affairs has approved the proposal by changing the definition of “industries” in the Delhi Master Plan 2021, which lays down the development vision for the city, and issued a notification on October 29 allowing information technology (IT) firms, media companies, knowledge parks, research and development (R&D) centres, vocational training centres and even educational institutes in new industrial areas.

Previously, only manufacturing units were allowed at such sites.

“Delhi will be able to get rid of polluting industries within its industrial areas. We shared the proposal with the Centre three-four years ago. I want to personally thank Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri, who took this historic step for Delhi. This will be an important step in creating a pollution-free and neat, clean and green Delhi,” Kejriwal said.

He added that the manufacturing units in Delhi’s existing 29 industrial areas will continue to operate, but they will have the option to shift to hi-tech or service sector activities.

The new rule will be effective only for the new industrial areas, which, as of now, include a proposed multi-level industrial hub at Ranikhera, a knowledge park at Baprola and a 920-acre integrated industrial township in northwest Delhi’s Kanjhawala, a senior government official said. In all, these three proposed industrial areas will be able to house at least 7,000 units.

The official, who did not want to be named, said new licenses for manufacturing units in the already operational industrial areas such as Narela and Bawana will continue to be issued.

Apart from the 29 existing industrial areas, there are four full-flatted factory complexes, from where a number of industries, including manufacturing units, operate. Besides, there are also 24 industrial clusters, which have been notified for redevelopment under the Master Plan.

In total, there are around 75,000 industrial units operating in Delhi, according to the official cited above.

“The units operating from these areas deal in iron, steel, plastic and so on, which are major sources of pollution in the national capital. The existing rules of setting up a factory will continue to apply in all these old areas. But factories here will now have an additional option to shift to hi-tech or service industry.

“It is only in the three planned upcoming industrial areas that only hi-tech and service industries will be allowed. These upcoming areas have also got relaxation in building heights. Compared to the existing rule of six-storey (buildings), we will be able to build even eight-storey (buildings) or more depending on clearance…,” said the official.

At his online briefing, Kejriwal reiterated that the “landmark” move will help control the problem of pollution in the city, which faces a public health emergency triggered by toxic air every year during the festival season and the winter months.

“In the coming days, we hope that all these manufacturing industries will be shut down and more and more service industries will be opened in Delhi. The main economy of Delhi is service-based. All the service-based industries were earlier in the office category in Delhi and could only be opened in commercial areas. The rates in commercial areas were very high…These offices earlier preferred Gurugram and Noida, and not Delhi,” Kejriwal said.

He added that now office-owners will not have to shift to others cities and that they will be able to avail cheap and spacious locations in Delhi’s industrial areas.

Chartered accountants, lawyers, media companies, hardware and software firms, industries integrating and manipulating the interfaces of computer and telecom facilities, customer interaction services, finance and accounting, ad and marketing agencies, placement services and equity research services are some of the businesses that are allowed to set up shop in the new industrial areas.

Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director (research and advocacy), Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), said the decision can help reduce local air pollution in the long run.

“But as seen earlier, moving polluting units out-shifts pollution across the border, but it stays in the air-shed of the region. Delhi will also have to address small-scale and informal industrial units and recyclers in other areas that do not have access to clean fuels and pollution control technologies,” she said.

Roychowdhury added that Delhi will have to implement its policy on approved clean fuels with zero tolerance in the informal sector. “Also, open burning of industrial hazardous waste, as noted in Mundka and Bawana areas, are of serious concern. This initiative should be taken forward to ensure access to affordable clean fuels and compliance across the industry sector in the entire NCR (National Capital Region),” she said.

R K Gupta, the general secretary of the Mayapuri Industrial Welfare Association, said it has come as a setback for the manufacturing industry.”The priority of the government is GST collections and since Delhi is a large market area, there is no problem on that front. The dispensation is not very industry-friendly,” he claimed.

Ashok Gupta from the traders’ association in Karawal Nagar said the issue of air pollution has to be dealt with a heavy hand.

“Everyone is reeling under the effects of extreme pollution. There is no doubt about it. The manufacturing industries can come up outside Delhi. There is no problem in that,” he said.

Brijesh Goyal, the Delhi convenor of AAP’s trade and industry wing, said there are around 3.5 lakh small and big manufacturing units in the national capital.

He said the government’s move will generate employment and increase the government’s tax collection. “This is a good step that the service sector will be recognised as an industry. No action will be taken against the existing manufacturing units,” Goyal said.

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