villagers of Paonta Sahib tehsil in Himachal Pradesh have accused pharmaceutical giant Ranbaxy of not complying with an order of the Himachal Pradesh High Court passed on July 27, 2006, staying its expansion plans.
In January 2007, villagers approached the state pollution control board (pcb) seeking details of the plant's incinerator. They alleged that the company was operating the incinerator at night, in disregard of the court order.
According to Ranbaxy, the new incinerator was on trial and was being monitored by a private consultant firm, SGS India Private Ltd in Gurgaon. Farmers, however, suspect the veracity of the claim. Sources in the Himachal Pradesh pcb told Down To Earth that the board was unrepresented during the incinerator's trial run.
The court had in July 2006 indicted the plant for legal irregularities including multiple violations of land and environmental laws (see 'Himachal verdict', Down To Earth, August 31, 2006). Following the order, pcb had barred the company from using incinerators.
The court had also asked the Central Pollution Control Board (cpcb) and pcb to decide on norms for dioxins and furan, released by these incinerators, which is still to be set.
"How could Ranbaxy operate its incinerator when the norms have not been standardised?" asks Subodh Abbhi, an organic farmer in Batamandi, a village near the plant. "Ranbaxy has not sought permission for the trial run from the high court," says J Reuual, counsel for the villagers.
In its haste to expand, the company had undertaken a rapid environmental impact assessment (eia) and obtained clearance from the Union ministry of environment and forests, which was rejected by the High Court. The court in its 2006 order asked the plant to carry out a comprehensive eia. cpcb and Ranbaxy officials maintain this has been done, but villagers doubt this.
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