Songe iron unit asked to shut shop in Goa

Published: Monday 31 December 2007

on november 28, the High Court of Bombay at Goa ordered a sponge iron plant in south Goa to stop operations within a week. This is not the first time the company has been asked to shut shop. The Goa State Pollution Control Board (gspcb) on October 6, 2006, had asked the unit, Jain Udyog Private Ltd, to close operations because of air and water pollution in Sanvordem panchayat--its area of operation.

On October 10, 2006, the high court ordered the south Goa collector to ensure complete closure of the unit, as per the pollution control board's orders, and prohibited its reopening without the "prior leave of the court". But the company approached the administrative tribunal against the pollution control board's orders and got permission for operations. The company informed the state pollution control board of the permission in January 2007.

Goa Foundation, the environmental monitoring group, filed an application in the high court because the company had started operations without the "prior leave of the court". Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering Research Institute, in its report on measures to check pollution followed by sponge iron units in the state reported that the company had stocked additional waste materials within the plant, in contravention of the pollution control board's norm to stock such material 500 m away from the river Kalay, flowing through the district.

"However, complying with the consent requirement at this stage will not still redeem the situation as the siting of this industry was improper. Therefore, the gspcb is required to decide whether to close or shiftM/S Jain Udyog in a phased manner, for which it should have a time bound action plan," the report said. The institute undertook inspection of sponge iron plants in March 2007.

When the report was discussed by the pollution control board in its meeting on October 12, 2007, the members decided to direct the unit to conduct a rapid environment impact assessment (eia) through a laboratory recognized by Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, and submit a report to the board within six months. According to board officials, the step was taken because the Nagpur-based research institute did not give any scientific data to justify its recommendation. It is being speculated that if the eia is in favour of the company, the gspcb may issue permission to run the operations after seeking prior leave of the court.

However, with the recent order to stop operations in place, the fate of the unit hangs in balance.

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