Under siege

Villagers attack polluting sponge iron plant near Belgaum

By Nidhi Jamwal
Published: Monday 30 November 2009

angered by continuing pollution from a sponge iron unit, about 100 residents of Londa village stormed the factory in Karnatakas Belgaum district on October 26. They attacked the plant officials, broke company property and dug a 10-foot-wide trench near the factory gate preventing trucks from entering the plant premises. Two days later, the Londa gram sabha voted to lock out the Kundil Sponge Iron Plant. Police have lodged cases against 20 persons.

Villagers said the plant has been operating and spewing toxic gases contravening the Karnataka high courts closure order in July (see High court closes polluting factory, Down To Earth, September 30, 2009). On October 26, we sought an appointment with the plant manager, but he refused to meet us, said Pradeep Juwadi, a resident of Londa. A group of villagers then decided to go to the factory. The manager still refused to meet them.This irked the people who attacked him and broke some furniture, he said. About 30 trucks loaded with raw materials were stranded outside Londa, said Juwadi.

The district administration admitted the factory is a major source of pollution. People are angry as it impacts their health, said Vijay Kumar Torgal, additional deputy commissioner of Belgaum. Area tehsildar is enquiring into the matter. The sponge iron factory has completely polluted the village. From time to time, villagers requested the factory be shut down. But the management kept it running. Finding no other solution, the villagers attacked the plant, Torgal said. The state pollution control board has collected water samples from within and outside the factory; the report is yet to arrive.

Kundil officials were not available for comments. Its website though claimed that the company had spent Rs 3 crore to install an electrostatic precipitator at Londa factory to control air pollution. Flyash generated from the factory was also being used to construct internal roads at Londa.

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