Fly ash from thermal power plants in the area settles on the salt; affects quality
The salt manufacturers in Tuticorin, one of the major salt-producing centre in the country, are upset with the stringent Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 (FSSA) being implemented. They claim there is too much pollution due to thermal power plants in the area, which makes it difficult to maintain quality in their products as envisaged by the Act. They say that pollution needs to be controlled before the authorities start cracking down on them.
Currently, there are about three thermal power plants, with a capacity of about 1,500 MW, operating in the district. Many more plants are in the pipeline. Fly ash from these plants settles on the salt. The Act says that salt has to be manufactured in such a way that it contains 96 per cent sodium chloride.
“My salt pan lies very close to one of the state-owned thermal power stations. During peak season (May–September), fly ash settles on the salt, which has to be left in the open for evaporation,” says AS Dhanabalan, a salt manufacturer. He adds that he loses 50 bags of salt for every 1,000 bags produced because of the fly ash. “I cannot always assure that the other 1,000 bags are clear of pollutants,” he adds. “Why does the government not ensure a cleaner environment if they demand better quality and high standards for the finished product?” he asks.
Small players cannot go hi-tech
P K Raman, another salt manufacturer, says small scale manufactures who make up 95 per cent of the salt industry in the district will be the worst hit as they cannot afford high-end technology to refine salt. “The Tuticorin salt industry has many small players and it should be the government's responsibility to protect them,” he adds.
The FSSA passed in 2006 was implemented last year. Under it, every district in the country has a designated officer who will be in-charge of implementation. Jagadish Chandra Bose, the designated officer for Tuticorin district, convened a meeting on December 27 last year to create awareness among the food business operators in the district with regard to the new laws superseding all the previous acts and regulations.
“All food business operators are required to register under the FSSA from street vendors to food processors to manufacturers,” says Bose. In case the annual turnover of an operator is more than Rs 12 lakh, the operator will have to apply for a license under the FSSA, he adds. Bose says that the business operators should not worry about the new policy as there is scope for two warnings before being penalised.
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