Protests against Belgaum's sponge iron plant

Published: Thursday 31 January 2008

protest is building up against Kundil Sponge Iron Ltd's unit in Londa town in Belgaum district, Karnataka. People are planning to take to the streets to protest against the rising pollution in the township, which has started affecting rice cultivation in neighbouring villages. They say although officials promised action against the plant, nothing has been done so far.

Aravind Jannu, the state secretary of Department of Ecology and Environment (dee), had assured suitable action after inspecting the plant on December 1. "We didn't want the unit. It was thrust on us. Pollution levels are unimaginable and our houses are covered with soot. The secretary visited the plant but did not speak to local people. We will have to take drastic measures," says Shekhar Mithare, a resident of Londa (see 'Shifting pain' , Down To Earth, March 31, 2006).

On October 30, 2007, Uday Kumar, dee's regional director (environment), on a surprise visit to the plant, found several violations. The report he prepared highlighted three things. One, the plant's electrostatic precipitator (esp) was shut down leading to severe air pollution; two, the ore was being washed at the plant site and sludge was being thrown into the nearby stream; and three, openly stored by-products like dolomite caused pollution.

The report was forwarded to Jannu's office in Bangalore but nothing of consequence has happened. "I have not received any communication from the secretary's office after his visit to the sponge iron unit... Kundil's plant is still in operation," Kumar said. Jannu was unavailable for comment.

Mithare says, "The Karnataka State Pollution Control Board officials intimate before they visit and authorities take care of pollution levels for that day." S Chiranjeev, spokesperson of Kundil, said his company was not making any official statement on the issue.

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