Dec 31 2010, Indian Express

‘State industrial units spewing venom’

A series of surprise checks carried out by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) this year has revealed a dismal scenario of the industrial units in Gujarat. Data gathered through a Right to Information (RTI) query by members of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti shows that not just effluent treatment facilities, even individual companies are flouting pollution control norms.

During a visit to a pesticide manufacturing unit of Bayer Cropscience in Ankleshwar on October 29, 2010, the CPCB team found that the unit had not fully complied with the directions despite facing a closure notice under the Environment Protection Act. The visit came in the wake of the death of a shift engineer, Vaibhav Saxena, during a toxic gas leak on March 11, 2010, after which his son R S Saxena made a representation to CPCB.

A report submitted by the Department of Industrial Safety and Health (DISH) to CPCB revealed that Saxena died at Agro Chem - IV (Ethoprophos plant) due to leakage of N-propyl Mercaptan (NPM) following a fire at the plant. Saxena’s death, the DISH report noted, was caused because he was single-handedly trying to control the leakage of 1,577 litres of NPM.

The CPCB team further found that Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) had through a notification on May 14, 2009 — about ten months prior to the accident, asked the company to stop manufacturing Ethopropos, which uses the highly toxic chemical, NPM. In one of the recommendation, the company was also asked to install alarm systems to detect gas leaks. But the company had on January 16, 2010, requested GPCB to grant permission for manufacturing Ethopropanos as necessary improvements were made.

“The company had manufactured 191.2 metric tonnes of Ethopropanos in February and March 2010, but no prior permission from GPCB was taken for such a trial run,” CPCB said in its report, adding that the company officials paid about Rs 60 lakh as compensation to the family.

Visits to a pharmaceutical company, Alembic limited, revealed that the company was incinerating expired drugs in the open, in violation of GPCB norms, while effluent discharges continued even at the time of the team’s visit. “GPCB has given zero discharge condition. As per consent, effluent should not go outside the factory premises or be disposed on land, therefore the question of compliance of standards and discharge of effluent doesn’t arise. The industry was observed to be using effluent for spraying on open land in the premises despite improvement from the scenario observed on March 25, 2008,” the CPCB report filed last month said. The pharmaceutical company was asked to pay a suitable amount of bank guarantee with a validity for a year.

A visit to Shiva Pharmachem and Kumar Organic Products in October 2010, following a complaint by one Kirit Amin of Farmers Action Group (FAG) of Luna village, revealed that their concerns were not properly represented at the time of issuing the No Objection Certificates. “The concerns placed by FAG were unfairly represented in the annexure to the minutes of the hearing (on July 27, 2009), and hurriedly signed without explaining the content, opposition of villagers for granting EC to the industry,” the CPCB report said.

Shiva Pharmachem was asked not to manufacture products for which EC or No Objection Certificate was issued, while Kumar Organic Products was asked to build a site to store hazardous wastes as the unit did not have one. “The industry may be asked to manufacture products (as per EC/NOC) only after obtaining consent to operate, and was asked to discontinue the productions of such products,” said a CPCB official during the surprise check at Shiva Chemicals. Anupam Chakravartty

more information:
· India: Fire at Bayer CropScience Plant / One employee killed
· campaign “Lessons of Bhopal“