Succour for Sukruli

High court takes polluting sponge iron unit to task

By Satyasundar Barik
Published: Monday 15 July 2002

the people of Sukruli block in Mayurbhanj district, Orissa, can heave a sigh of relief. A division bench of the Orissa High Court (hc) recently directed Shiv Shakti Sponge Iron Limited (sssil) to install effective pollution preventive mechanism as prescribed by the Central Pollution Control Board (cpcb). This judgement comes in the wake of a writ petition filed by Nari Srimoyee Samaj (nss), a non-governmental organisation (ngo) of tribal women. nss had contended that carbon monoxide, sulphur and nitrogen oxide emitted by the sponge iron unit were not only affecting the 15,000 villagers residing in the block, the ecology of the region was also suffering.

In its judgment, the bench directed sssil to install an electrostatic precipitator (esp), portholes and platform at the appropriate height by June 21, 2002, failing which the interim stay order in favour of the industry would stand annulled. The directive has boosted the morale of Sukruli's residents, who have been steadfastly fighting against the unabated pollution that has plundered the flora and fauna of the region (see Down To Earth, Vol 10, No 20, March 15, 2002).

Meanwhile, the Orissa Pollution Control Board (opcb) has drawn flak for its role in the controversy. In their report, opcb experts observed that the concentration levels of suspended particulate matter and respiratory particulate matter released by the factory were within prescribed limits. They, however, did point out that sssil had not taken other stipulated steps to curb pollution.

Despite the favourable court ruling, nss members are sceptical about the sssil's commitment to install the esp which costs around Rs 1 crore. Considering the fact that the unit's annual investment is Rs 8 crore, their apprehensions may not be misplaced.

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