According to Ministry officials, based on the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) findings, there was no improvement in the area's air quality after cold stores were shut or new ones not registered.
Following protests by farmers, who faced huge losses due to limited options to store their produce, this decision now has come as a relief and an attempt to douse their anger.
TTZ is a defined area of 10,400 square km around the Taj Mahal to protect the monument from pollution. It includes parts of Agra, Mathura, Firozabad, and Etah in Uttar Pradesh and Bharatpur in Rajasthan, where potato is produced.
"We have found that maximum cold stores are not polluting. There is no link to pollution emissions. Also, the air quality did not improve after the ban on new cold stores or other industry.
A CPCB official said: "The particulate matter is a matter of concern in the TTZ, because of stone-crushers and mining in the region. However, the yellowing of the monument by air pollution is due to oxides of nitrogen that is generated from liquid or gaseous fuels... there was no increase in that."
In 2001, polluting industries were shut down in this zone. The area was later declared a white zone, allowing only white-category industries with the most strict standards. The industrialists had since been demanding permission for green-category industries with slightly relaxed pollution standards to operate from the TTZ, also including cold stores.
"In 2017, several thousand metric tonnes of potato could not be stored due to space shortage, leading to wastage and resultant losses to growers. With only around 250 cold stores in the region, they were the ones to quote their price," Agra-based Potato Farmers Union President Rajeev Lavania told IANS.
The production cost of potato is about Rs 700 to Rs 900 per quintal, whereas the government offers only Rs 650 per quintal. Cold stores charge Rs 240 per quintal to store the crop from March onwards.
(Kushagra Dixit can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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