Tannery convicted

By Savvy Soumya Misra
Published: Wednesday 15 July 2009

All owners dead except one

after a trial lasting 25 years, a special court in Lucknow convicted the owners of a tannery for polluting river water. On June 2, the court sentenced the owners of East India Leather Company to six months' imprisonment and slapped a fine of Rs 9,000 on them.

In 1984 the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board accused the tannery of not having a primary treatment plant and discharging untreated effluents directly into the Reth river, a tributary of the Gomti. A case was filed under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.

But things have changed in the past 25 years. The tannery has shut down and all the partners except Ghulam Mustafa, 65, have died. He can barely walk after knee replacement surgeries and does not even recall the case. He has been spared from prison and let off on probation."The tannery was closed in 1993 due to family dispute," said the board's law officer, Ashok Kumar Singh. The owners never allowed the board officials to inspect the tannery, said Singh who has pursued the case all these years.

The defendants have a different story to tell. "We had a primary treatment plant. The board collected water sample from the river where about 20 tanneries discharge effluents and used the analysis report to target us," Mustafa's lawyer said. The Mustafas are not in the leather business any longer. But they have a grievance. The government should install and monitor common effluent treatment plants (cetps) and charge tanneries according to the waste discharged, said Mustafa's son Kamil. Nair Jamal of the Small Tanners Association of Jajmau--the state's tannery hub near Kanpur--agrees. Instead of monitoring cetps, the board pins down individual tanneries, Jamal said. "At the primary treatment plant we maintain the pH of the effluent and extract the solid waste; the water is treated at the cetps," he said.

The board has filed cases against 32 tanneries in Jajmau.

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