Recipe for disaster

An under-developed district becomes one of the leading polluted areas in India

Published: Wednesday 15 July 1998

ratlam is a district headquarters in Madhya Pradesh. Lack of environmental awareness and improper management of local industries has turned the place into one of the 22 most polluted towns in India. The growing pollution and the paucity of drinking water led Hari Ram Patidar, a citizen of Ratlam, to file a writ petition against the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board ( cpcb ) in the Supreme Court. While agreeing with the petitioner, the Supreme Court felt that the matter could be better examined by the High Court and transferred the petition to the High Court of Madhya Pradesh.

Pollution in Ratlam became severe after 1974 due to discharge of industrial waste by Jayant Vitamins Ltd, a local industry into the river. Sajjan chemical & Alcohol plant and other industries discharged their waste into the nallahs which join the river. In fact, nallahs are mainly responsible for carrying the highest pollution to river.

The cpcb in its report has pointed out grave and serious problem of pollution due to these industries. S P Chakraborti, cpcb member secretary, has filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court regarding non-compliance of recommen-dations made by the cpcb . There are strong observations made by the cpcb that they are hazardous and, therefore, they should be re-located at some other site by July 24, 1997.

The government of Madhya Pradesh submitted a report of the so-called "expert committee" on pollution from the industries of Ratlam which was chaired by Uday Kumar Varma, ias, Industries Commissioner. He said: "The question of relocation of existing industries was discussed at length within the committee as also with the people who met the committee during the course of their visit to Ratlam. There is unanimity in the committee that relocation of industries may not necessarily solve the problem of pollution, though it may mitigate pollution at Ratlam substantially."

But the implications of a relocation are so imminent and have so many ramifications that every one who interacted with the committee, including the petitioner, Hari Ram Patidar, categorically pleaded for not relocating the industries, but for ensuring complete elimination of harmful effluents in the natural systems and a zero discharge condition in most of the industries located in and around Ratlam".

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