Green tribunal orders closure of illegal industries in Jasodharpur
In an interim order last week, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board (UEPPCB) to close all industrial units in Jasodharpur Industrial Area (JIA) that are functioning without the consent of the board. NGT has also asked the board to file a detailed report on the operational status of industries in JIA, located near Kotdwar town of Pauri Garwhal district.
The order is in response to a petition by Shiv Prasad Dabral, a resident of the area, who alleged that several foundries in JIA are operating illegally, without consent from the state pollution control board or an environmental clearance. These industries are also major sources of air pollution in the area and are a public health hazard. The units have also been flouting industrial pollutant discharge norms by dumping the foundry slag on the banks of the Sigaddi Srot river, notes the petition.
“The order of the tribunal is an important step towards regulating such illegal operations,” says Sanjay Upadhayay, counsel appearing for the applicant.
People living around the industrial area have been protesting against the pollution caused by industrial units in the area since 2008. JIA was established under the Uttar Pradesh State Industrial Development Corporation in 1996-97. In 2011, JIA’s jurisdiction got transferred to the State Infrastructure and Industrial Development Corporation of Uttarakhand (SIDCUL). The area has 17 foundries carrying out steel production using induction furnace. All of these industrial units are in the “potentially highly polluting” category of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). According to CPCB, industrial processes involving foundry operations have significant potential to cause pollution or generate hazardous waste and are thus placed under the red category requiring strict vigilance.
Kotdwar residents say UEPPCB is well aware of the illegal status of the units and the pollution they cause. According to the petitioner, several complaints were filed on the matter before the state authorities. UEPPCB also undertook a site inspection in February 2009 and found that 13 of 16 inspected foundries were operating without consent and are operating without even applying for consent. UEPPCB noted that none of the facilities had proper slag disposal mechanism, and disposal was being carried out in illegal manner, violating the provisions of the Hazardous Waste Rules of 2008 that requires the generated slag to be recycled and reused or be disposed of at authorised disposal facilities. Emissions of the particulate matter (PM) from several foundries were in the range of 220.65mg/Nm3, much beyond the CPCB prescribed standard of 150mg/Nm3. However, the findings of UEPPCB remained a cursory exercise considering the ineffectiveness of the authorities in ameliorating the situation,” says Manisha Badoni, counsel appearing for the petitioner.
An Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) study of JIA conducted by Delhi non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in 2012 confirmed the illegalities and environmental violations in the area. The study was carried out following the request of UEPPCB in December, 2011. The request of the UEPPCB was in response to the demands of people living around the industrial cluster who wanted the non-profit to conduct an EIA of the area.
During its study, CSE expressed concern over the fact that UEPPCB did not give consent to several factories in JIA, but still allowed them to operate. The study found that the pollution control equipment used in these factories were highly inadequate, which is resulting in massive pollution. Solid waste disposal was also identified as a major problem as the site used for slag dumping is on the bank of river Sigaddi Srot at Sigaddi is unplanned, and can contribute to huge water and land pollution during rainy season. Moreover the site falls within the declared elephant corridor of the Rajaji National Park. Given the status of pollution and the illegalities, the report prescribed that all illegal factories should be shut down with immediate effect till UEPPCB grants them the consent after these factories meet the pollution norms. For compliance of pollution norms, CSE recommended immediate upgrade and installation of pollution control equipment such as stacks, hoods and wet scrubbers, regular monitoring of air quality in the industrial area and its vicinity, setting up a common effluent treatment plant within the industrial area, reuse of slag to the maximum possible extent and disposal of the rest in designated landfill sites.
“The pollution control board has the authority to stop operations of any plant that does not meet the norms and does not have the mandatory consent,” says Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of CSE. However, the state board had failed to exercise its authority,” he added. The institute has welcomed the order of the tribunal.
The response of UEPPCB is not very clear. When contacted, UEPPCB officials were reluctant to discuss the matter in detail. All they had say was: “The order has just been given and the state authorities will deliberate on it and take necessary action.” SIDCUL officials said the matter mostly concerns the state pollution control board which has to look into the issues that have been raised. The case will be next heard on March 18.