Published: Saturday 31 October 1998

A division bench of the Gujarat high court recently directed the Gujarat State Fertilisers Company Limited (GSFC), Vadodara, to take proper steps to ensure the upkeep of the wall which seperates the GSFC and the residential complex. The direction was given so that the wall could withstand pressure of heavy rains in future. The order came in a suo moto pollution case against the GSFC. The division bench comprising Justice S D Dave and Justice J R Vora, had issued the suo moto case, after taking cognisance of an article, Toxic Trail, which appeared in the August 31 issue (Down To Earth, Vol7,No7).

Recently, the magazine had carried a story about 40 lakh tonnes of gypsum and chalk waste containing toxic impurities that was dumped by the GSFC in its premises. The dump created a 40-metre-high mountain, spread over an area of 14-hectare. The mountain collapsed after rains on July 6, 1998, and swamped the entire residential areas of Bajwa, The company's wall that separates the industrial complex from the village did not even prove a minor obstacle. Since its inception, the GSFC has been dumping its gypsum and chalk wastes in its complex.

The Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) argued in the court that the GSFC had built the wall after the incident. Vadodara's collector Anil Mukim and some people present during the hearing on September 8, also confirmed GPCB allegation. However, the court observed that even if there was no wall during the spell of heavy rains at Vadodara, the incident that took place on July 6 should not get repeated. The court requested Suren Choksi, a noted geologist in Vadodara who has also been quoted in the story, to produce all the material and apprise the court about his views on the incident. The court also observed the need to have a certain long-term, medium-term and short-term measures so that such incidents do not not occur in future.

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