Pollution board under fire for negligence

Karnataka environmentalists have alleged that the state's pollution control board has not dealt firmly with highly polluting industries.

Published: Thursday 15 July 1993

EVEN AS the world prepared to celebrate Environment Day on June 5, environmentalists in Karnataka filed a complaint against the state pollution control board (SPCB) for failing to discharge their duties under the Water Act, 1974, and the Air Act, 1981.

On May 11, Ram M Apte, an advocate and president of the Belgaum-based Anyaya Nirvana Manch, served a notice against SPCB chairperson M J Surendra Kumar and secretary B Shivalingaiah, on behalf of several environmental and social action groups, alleging they had not taken adequate action against polluting industries in the state.

The notice cited specific instances of their acts of commission and omission that have resulted in abuse of their positions, including several violations of the Air and Water Acts, large-scale fish kills in the Tungabhadra river in 1984 and 1992 and callousness towards pollution-affected people. It also charged Kumar with lack of integrity, corruption and maladministration. The groups on whose behalf the notice was served also demanded immediate action against Grasim Industries and Harihar Polyfibres, who they claimed were causing air and water pollution in Dharwad. Any failure to act would result in a complaint being filed against them under the Karnataka Lokayukta Act, 1984, they warned.

S R Hiremath, a former SPCB member and convenor of the Samaja Parivarthana Samudaya of Dharwad, also accused the SPCB officials of collecting funds for World Environment Day from polluting industries and compromising their positions.

Neither Kumar nor Shivalingaiah have replied to the notice. Kumar says the board's legal adviser felt a reply was unnecessary because the chairperson and secretary have discharged their duties as per the rules. "We are only implementing the board's decision," he clarified. "We cannot act independently, even if our thinking is different."

Referring to the allegation of favouritism, Kumar said, "I am neither pro- nor anti-industries. We do not compromise as far as legal provisions are concerned. But we are not incriminating them either." He disclosed that the board has called for an inspection of Harihar Polyfibres on June 19, and said, "We will try to solve the problem within the framework of law. I can't go by Hiremath's dictates, I have to go by rules."

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