Published: Thursday 31 January 2002

The controversy over the use of polluting coal by industries in the Taj Trapezium Zone in Agra has assumed political overtones. Local politicians are siding with the industrialists to stall the implementation of the Supreme Court (SC) order in this regard.

As per the SC order, industries would have faced closure after December 31, 2001, if they did not switch over to clean natural gas as fuel. In a preemptive move, owners of these units went on a strike in the last week of December. "Local politicians from major political parties, including the member of parliament from Agra, came out in our support," revealed Rajesh Goyal, secretary, Agra Iron Foundries' Association.

The protests notwithstanding, the city's administrative machinery is abiding by the verdict by cracking down on errant industries. On January 1, 2002, a 100-odd foundries still using coal were grounded. Since then industries linked to these foundries have also been shut down.

Earlier, in October 2001, the SC had asked the polluting industries to file an affidavit that they would either use natural gas as fuel for their foundries or shift out of the ecosensitive Taj Trapezium Zone after December 31, 2001 (See 'Hope on the horizon', Down To Earth , Vol 10, No 12, November 15, 2001).

Industrialists initially sought refuge in the plea that natural gas-based technology was unavailable in India. However later they seemed satisfied with the domestic trials of these technologies. "The latest trials were carried out on December 11, 2001 but there are still a few problems," said Goyal.

Foundry owners are now trying to import the gas-based technology from Russia and Ukraine. For this they recently approached the Union ministry of small-scale industries.

"But bureaucratic delays are coming in the way of technology import," claimed Goyal.

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