PAYING FOR POLLUTION

One of the world's oldest refineries, Digboi, faces closure

 
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

The Assam Pollution Control Board (apcb) has served a closure notice to the Digboi authorities for releasing highly toxic effluents, including oil and grease, into waterbodies. According to an official of the apcb, untreated effluents from the refinery is causing extensive damage to agricultural fields and forests.

In response, the refinery authorities have submitted Rs 5 lakh as guarantee and a court affidavit before the apcb and have also requested for more time to install pollution control devices. "We will scrutinise their affidavit before taking a decision," said Lakhinandan Borah, apcb's chairperson.

Since November 1999, the apcb has served 14 notices to the refinery authorities, urging them to conform to pollution norms. "Since we have got no response from them, we are forced to issue a closure notice this time," said Borah. apcb has issued similar notices to Cachar Paper Mill, which is run by Hindustan Paper Corporation Limited. According to apcb, the mill is also discharging untreated effluents into the Kushiara River.

The Digboi refinery is run by the Indian Oil Corporation and is said to be the largest commercial enterprise of India. The refinery produces 650,000 metric tonnes of crude oil every year. Its products include high quality wax and important petrochemicals.

The British discovered Digboi 1825, which is also the largest refinery in Asia. In 1857, Goodenough of Mckillop Stewart and Company, a Britain-based firm, began drilling in the area -- the first successful attempt for extracting oil in Asia. In fact, according to legends, the town was named after Goodenough's constant urgings to his workforce -- "Dig boy, dig."

-NAVA THAKURIA GUWAHATI

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