Central Environment Ministry seeks reply from Bihar Pollution Control Board

अतिथि लेखक
Central Environment Ministry seeks reply from Bihar Pollution Control Board

Central Environment Ministry seeks reply from Bihar Pollution Control
Board regarding violation of environmental laws by asbestos factories

Patna: After the stoppage of asbestos based factories in Muzaffarpur
and Vaishali, following a complaint of ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), the
regional office of the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests &
Climate Change has sent a letter to Bihar State Pollution Control
Board ( BSPCB) regarding violation of environmental laws by asbestos
factories in Bhojpur.  Although BSPCB has cancelled the No Objection
Certificate given to the asbestos factory units of Tamil Nadu based
Nibhi Industries Pvt Ltd and Ramco Industries in Bhojpur they are
still running. Despite such action these factories are operating with
impunity. Ramoco had permission for one factory but has been running
two factories. The letter dated 9 February, 2017 is attached. This is
the second letter in this regard. The earlier letter was sent on
August 3, 2016 pursuant to the complaint of TWA.

It is noteworthy that BSPCB has revoked its emission-consent order and
discharge consent order given to Tamil Nadu based Nibhi Industries Pvt
Ltd which was valid till 31st March, 2018. Chairman, BSPCB has
ordered, the company in question, Nibhi Industries Pvt Ltd. to “close
your industrial unit with immediate effect, failing which complaints
shall be filed u/ss. 44 of the Water (Prevention and Control of
Pollution) Act, 1974 and 37 of the Air (Prevention and Control of
Pollution) Act, 1981.”   This land allotment was considered to be part
of the scam that led to an inquiry into allotments by Bihar Industrial
Area Development Authority (BIADA). In Bhojpur's Giddha village in
Koilwar block, the 100,000 MT Capacity Asbestos Fibre Cement
Corrugated Sheet, Flat Sheet, Accessories and Light Weight Fly Ash
Block Plant acquired 15 acres. The plant site is located adjacent to
Ara-Koilwar road.

When it was repeatedly pointed out the violations of the general and
specific conditions given the environmental clearance and NOC by Ramco
Industries, BSPCB’s Chairman took its cognizance. He has issued an
order saying, “I therefore, have no option but to treat this unit as a
non-compliant industry and am not inclined to renew the
Emission-Consent-Order and Discharge-Consent-Order for further period
beyond 31.3.2016. The applications for Emission-Consent-Order and
Discharge-Consent-Order dated 12.2.2016 are, accordingly, refused.”  A
120,000 MT/Annum capacity Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant and a 200,000
MT/Annum capacity Asbestos Grinding Plant was set up in Bihiya block
of Bhojpur by by Tamil Nadu based Ramco Industries Ltd. It is
noteworthy that only 120,000 MT/Annum capacity Asbestos Cement Sheet
Plant had the clearance from the BSPCB. The second unit of bigger
capacity functions without any clearance. The project was allotted 20
acres by the state government on lease for 90 years. Although the
company had approval for only one factory, it has been running two
units. It was given approval for only the 120,000 MT/Annum capacity
Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant and not it’s 200,000 MT/Annum capacity
Asbestos Grinding Plant.

The villagers complained against the hazardous factories in their
proximity that manufacture chrysotile white asbestos-cement products.
The hazardous asbestos waste has been dumped indiscriminately in the
adjoining villages and the agricultural fields. When one worker died
of asbestos related disease in the Ramco factory, her daughter has
filed a case in the human rights commission. The company has given a
compensation of Rs 5, 000 in matter of a death of this dead person
(mritak ki maut) avoiding to mention his status as a worker and
arguing that he was a cook in the factory and not a worker. This case
is sub judice with Bihar Human Rights Commission. Workers of this
factory have been on strike on several occasions but they have been
silenced with the help of unscrupulous local leaders and officials of
easy virtue. Local news papers and Patna based newspapers had
highlighted the pollution and health related complaints of the
villagers. Besides Associated Press a special program of Doordarshan
had highlighted the issue of asbestos factory amidst densely populated
villages.

The companies involved misled the villagers by telling them that
agro-based factories will be set up. Initially, when they bought the
land they did not disclose that it was for asbestos based factories.
When students of 10th and 12th standard found that it was going to be
hazardous factory, they pointed out that as per their biology and
chemistry text books asbestos causes incurable lung diseases.

After more than five years of villagers' struggle against lung cancer
causing asbestos based plant of West Bengal based Balmukund company in
Chainpur-Bishunpur, Marwan block in Muzaffarpur district of Bihar was
closed. It had approval for 3 lakh ton per annum capacity. Bitter
resistance against the proposal of West Bengal based Utkal Asbestos
Limited (UAL) at Chaksultan Ramppur Rajdhari near Panapur in Kanhauli
Dhanraj Panchayat of in Goraul block in Vaishali made the Bihar Chief
Minister Nitish Kumar intervene after a delegation of leaders from
Left parties and anti-asbestos activists met him in this regard. I
worked with Khet Bachao Jeevan Bachao Jan Sangarsh Committee of
Muzaffarpur and Vaishali to resist the setting up such hazardous
plants and represented it in negotiations. Bihar State Pollution
Control Board (BSPCB) cancelled the No Objection Certificate given to
the UAL company. It had approval for 2.5 lakh ton per annum capacity.
This company also operated Giddha, Bhojpur based asbestos factory for
some time as well.

After he was presented a memorandum signed by 10, 000 villagers,
BSPCB’s Chairman stood his ground against the factory because it had
violated the Battery Limit fixed for such hazardous industries.
Company representatives compared harmful effects of asbestos exposure
to harm from drinking too much alcohol and road accident. This was
emphatically rejected by the villagers as quite insensitive.

The peoples struggle led to stoppage of proposed asbestos based plant
of 1.25 lak tons per annum (TPA) capacity in Pandaul, Sagarpur, Hati
tehsil in Madhubani. The proposal of 2.5 lakh TPA capacity plant by
Hyderabad Industries Ltd in Kumar Bagh, Bettiah, West Champaran has
also been stopped. The company has constructed a boundary wall amidst
rich agricultural field but faces court cases from villagers.

Given the fact that No Objection Certificate given by BSPCB of all the
asbestos based factories in Bihar been cancelled by BSPCB, there is no
legal basis for the continued operations of these hazardous factories.
TWA had sent the cancellation orders to the central environmental
ministry.

BSPCB has cancelled the No Objection Certificate given to the asbestos
factory units of Tamil Nadu based Nibhi Industries Pvt Ltd and Ramco
Industries in Bhojpur.

When it was repeatedly pointed out the violations of the general and
specific conditions given the environmental clearance and NOC by Ramco
Industries, BSPCB’s Chairman took its cognizance. He has issued an
order saying, “I therefore, have no option but to treat this unit as a
non-compliant industry and am not inclined to renew the
Emission-Consent-Order and Discharge-Consent-Order for further period
beyond 31.3.2016. The applications for Emission-Consent-Order and
Discharge-Consent-Order dated 12.2.2016 are, accordingly, refused.”

A 120,000 MT/Annum capacity Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant and a 200,000
MT/Annum capacity Asbestos Grinding Plant was set up in Bihiya block
of Bhojpur by by Tamil Nadu based Ramco Industries Ltd. It is
noteworthy that only 120,000 MT/Annum capacity Asbestos Cement Sheet
Plant had the clearance from the BSPCB. The second unit of bigger
capacity functions without any clearance. The project was allotted 20
acres by the state government on lease for 90 years. Although the
company had approval for only one factory, it has been running two
units. It was given approval for only the 120,000 MT/Annum capacity
Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant and not it’s 200,000 MT/Annum capacity
Asbestos Grinding Plant.

The villagers have been complaining against the hazardous factories in
their proximity that manufacture chrysotile white asbestos-cement
products. The hazardous asbestos waste has been dumped
indiscriminately in the adjoining villages and the agricultural
fields. When one worker died of asbestos related disease in the Ramco
factory, her daughter has filed a case in the human rights commission.
The company has given a compensation of Rs 5, 000 in matter of a death
of this dead person (mritak ki maut) avoiding to mention his status as
a worker and arguing that he was a cook in the factory and not a
worker. This case is sub judice with Bihar Human Rights Commission.
Workers of this factory have been on strike on several occasions but
they have been silenced with the help of unscrupulous local leaders
and officials of easy virtue.

BSPCB has revoked its emission-consent order and discharge consent
order which was valid till 31st March, 2018. Chairman, BSPCB has
ordered, the company in question, Tamil Nadu based Nibhi Industries
Pvt Ltd. to “close your industrial unit with immediate effect, failing
which complaints shall be filed u/ss. 44 of the Water (Prevention and
Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and 37 of the Air (Prevention and
Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.”

In Bhojpur's Giddha village in Koilwar block, the 100,000 MT Capacity
Asbestos Fibre Cement Corrugated Sheet, Flat Sheet, Accessories and
Light Weight Fly Ash Block Plant acquired 15 acres. The plant site is
located adjacent to Ara-Koilwar road.

It is noteworthy that questions have been raised against these plants
in Bihar Vidhan Sabha and Vidhan Parishad. Shri Abdul Bari Siddiqui,
the then leader of opposition (and current Bihar Finance Minister)
raised the issue of hazardous asbestos factories in Vidhan Sabha. In
another significant observation Shri Awadhesh Narain Singh
Chairperson, Bihar Legislative Council (BLC) and former labour
minister said, “buying asbestos is akin to buying cancer” and “pain of
asbestos related diseases is worse than the pain of unemployment.”

The speech of Chairman, BLC is available at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9TbemRUkYM

In India, asbestos mining is technically banned and trade in asbestos
waste (dust and fibers) is also banned.

Union Environment Ministry’s Vision Statement on Environment and Human
Health reads, "Alternatives to asbestos may be used to the extent
possible and use of asbestos may be phased out" but the Experts
Appraisal Committee of this very ministry continues to give
environmental clearance to such hazardous industries. This is
notwithstanding the fact that "The Government of India is considering
the ban on use of chrysotile asbestos in India to protect workers and
the general population against primary and secondary exposure," as
announced in a concept paper by the Ministry of Labour. Both these
documents are available on central government’s website but struggle
to make Indians safe from deadly exposure of asbestos fibers continues
in the face of misinformation campaign of the killer industry.

As per Hon'ble Supreme Court's judgment of January 27, 1995 in Writ
Petition (Civil) No.206 of 1986 which was reiterated on January 21,
2011, the State govt has to comply with fresh ILO, resolution of June,
2006 on ASBESTOS and the health records of workers have to be
maintained for 40 years and for 15 years after the retirement. The
Judgment also stipulates compensation for such workers who suffer from
asbestos related diseases. In violation of Hon'ble Supreme Court's
orders, the Bihiya factory of Ramco company has not been maintaining
the health record of every worker, not conducting Membrane Filter test
to detect asbestos fibre, nor insuring health coverage to every worker
and that the company does not have qualified occupational health
doctors to undertake these tasks. This is true about the factory of
Nibhi company in Koilwar as well.

In view of the above, TWA has immediate intervention to ensure that
both these companies in question are tasked to decontaminate asbestos
laden factory sites, building, prepare a register of victims of
asbestos related diseases and announce a compensation fund for victims
of fatal diseases remains to be undertaken. This is required to save
present and future generation from incurable asbestos related
diseases.

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