Environmental regulation in India has a history of being extremely opaque, characterized by limited data and low transparency for all stakeholders. Even in the case of regulated plants, although their own performance on environmental audits is made available, their relative performance is not. The study aims to measure the impact of disclosing industrial emissions on regulatory action and pollution levels. Based on a dataset** compiled using historic emissions, plants are assigned performance ratings, which are made publicly available through this website, which was launched by the Chief Minister of Maharashtra in June 2017.

This project builds upon a recent history of legal reform in India that has strengthened the public right to information. The Right to Information Act (2005) enables citizens to access several types data from the state, including – in theory – data on plant emissions. However, it is time-consuming and tedious for the public to access this data. For this reason, in the absence of explicit public disclosure, the performance of industrial plants has remained opaque. In launching the scheme alone, this project has engendered a fundamental shift in how legally actionable regulatory data is treated in India.

The star rating program uses the CEMS data to display information about industrial emissions in the public domain—the most polluting industries are given a 1-star rating, and the best-performing industries are given a 5-star rating.

Project Implementation

Maharashtra Star Rating Program – 2017

Based on a dataset compiled using historic emissions, plants are assigned performance ratings, which were made public through the official website, the Maharashtra Star Rating Program triggered a fundamental shift in how legally actionable regulatory data is treated in India. More than 300 industrial units were enrolled in the program across 36 districts and 12 industrial sectors were covered.

This joint research initiative of the EPIC-India’s India centre, Tata Centre for Development, J-PAL South Asia, Evidence for Policy Design, and Maharashtra Pollution Control Board—builds upon the Right to Information Act, 2005 that enables citizens to access several types of data from the state, including—in theory—data on emission from industrial plants. However, it is time-consuming and tedious for the public to access this data. In the absence of explicit public disclosure, the performance of industrial plants has remained opaque.

With its launch, the program has triggered a fundamental shift in how legally actionable regulatory data is treated in India.

So far, both the industries and citizens have evinced support for the program, enabling it to reach out to a wide spectrum of people and encourage them to create awareness about air pollution in their respective communities. Under the program, about 650 people—including NGOs, industry professionals, engineering students, and journalists—have been sensitized so far through focused workshops.

The program has gained acceptance by virtue of providing citizens with critical information about industrial pollution levels. With a growing number of people visiting the Star Rating website and disseminating information across social media, this program has already triggered citizen activism. It has also received endorsements from city mayors, members of the Parliament, celebrities, and politicians.

Odisha Star Rating Program- 2018

Building on its experience of supporting the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board in designing a star rating program for industries, the EPIC-India team worked with OSPCB to launch an information disclosure program through a star-rating scheme. 62 out of 114 industries in the red category (heavily polluting) were covered under the Program.

The Government of Odisha collaborated with the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago’s India team (EPIC-India) and signed a statement of intent to advance its commitments for new research, knowledge, and capacity-building partnerships.

Besides informing residents about the polluting industries around them, the program aims at strengthening Odisha State Pollution Control Board’s (OSPCB) regulatory efforts to ensure compliance. This engagement in Odisha is supported by the Tata Centre for Development at UChicago.

Jharkhand Star Rating Program- 2019

Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board (JSPCB) has taken numerous progressive steps to improve the monitoring and regulatory framework for industrial emissions and that includes the installation of several continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMS) in industrial plants and going online with the process for consent to operate and consent to establish, among many others. In line with international best practices, JSPCB has also made available real-time emission data on its website.

JSPCB launched the Star Rating Program, a data disclosure and transparency initiative, in 2019 to address the problem of industrial air pollution in the state. The program utilizes continuously monitored emissions data from major industrial plants to categorize industries from 1-star to 5-star, i.e. from the least compliant to the most compliant. Besides informing the public and industries, the program also aims to encourage healthy competition among industries for better regulatory compliance to reduce emissions. JSPCB collaborated with the University of Chicago Trust (UC Trust) for this initiative. The UC Trust, through the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC India), has supported JSPCB in the design and implementation of the program.

Jharkhand is the third state in the country to launch this program, after Maharashtra and Odisha. Other countries have also widely used public disclosure and transparency initiatives to improve environmental outcomes. Examples include the US Toxic Release Inventory, Indonesia’s PROPER, the Philippines’ Eco-watch, and the Chinese GreenWatch. The low cost of these policies focuses on releasing information already collected by the Government has a universal appeal to Governments.
On October 20, 2022, the Jharkhand Star Rating Program launched its website in which a industrial air pollution map highlights the emissions of each industry and their ranking based on their PM emissions. Visit the website here.

The program has received generous research support from USAID.

 

Project Partners