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Report>>Sponge Iron Industries Issues and Campaigns, National Centre for Advocacy Studies, Pune 2007
How much harm can a sponge iron unit cause? How much land does it actually need? How much does it pollute? The National Centre for Advocacy Studies' new report on sponge iron has answers to questions such as these.
The report is topical. For, sponge iron units have come up in recent years in different parts of the country, especially Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. The low capital costs and sops offered by state governments have attracted the industry. However, there has also been a spate of protests against sponge iron units. Grassroots activists will find this report handy.
A lot of work has gone into collating disparate case studies.The editor and his team deserve credit for bringing together excellent case studies from Orissa, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Since most campaigns against sponge iron units are localized, a collection such as this will help understand the problem of sponge iron units in its larger context.
The book also provides interesting information on how rules and regulations are circumvented by the industry. For example, Nepaz Adhunik Metallic acquired land for a sponge iron factory in Orissa's Sundargarh district by doctoring gram sabha records. A lot of these small units do not find it economic to install pollution control devices. So they cause serious environmental problems in the long run. Loopholes in the regulatory mechanism and inefficient enforcement of existing rules mean that errant units go unpunished. Moreover, a lot of these small units are set up by influential people, who have their ways with pollution control boards. In one case, cited in the report, the regional officer of a pollution board was transferred when he served a closure notice.
Though the report is balanced one wishes that the editors had included views of pollution control board officials. This reviewer has another grouse. At many places references have not been provided and at others references are not complete. Some references only guide the reader to the main page of a website, and not the relevant document.
All this does not detract from the report's merits. Besides activists, regulators will also find this compilation useful. Most importantly, the sponge iron industry should go through this report to gauge the opinion of the people.