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

Written By Gopal Krishna on Tuesday, February 21, 2017 | 1:37 AM

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. TWA 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 sought 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.

For Details: Dr Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 08227816731, 09818089660, E-mail-1715krishna@gmail.com, Web: www.asbestosfreeindia.orgwww.toxicswatch.org

NGT verdict on Jindal’s hazardous Okhla ‘waste to energy’ plant failsto give relief to residents and birds of Delhi & UP

Written By Gopal Krishna on Thursday, February 09, 2017 | 10:40 PM

Verdict is myopic, unscientific, anti-environment and anti-public health

At last National Green Tribunal (NGT) gave its verdict on February 2, 2017 after its penultimate order of January 16, 2017 holding Respondent No. 9 M/s. Jindal Urban Infrastructure Ltd. guilty of acts of omission and commission but failed to give relief to the residents and birds of Okhla, Delhi and Okhla Birds Sanctuary, Uttar Pradesh. Prior to this NGT had passed a detailed order on March 11, 2013. It was recorded that “the foremost question that needs be answered is whether or not the Plant is causing environmental problems
and is releasing hazardous discharge/emissions which would be injurious to the health of the residents of the colonies in the vicinity of the project site.” This has been mentioned in the verdict dated February 2, 2017.The verdict is myopic, unscientific, anti-environment and anti-public health.

The verdict records that State of UP has primarily concerned itself with Okhla Birds Sanctuary which is located in the Capital Region of Delhi (NCR). It is located at a point where River Yamuna leaves the territory of Delhi and enters the State of UP. One of the most prominent features of this site is a large lake created by the construction of a barrage on the River Yamuna adjoining Okhla village towards the West and Gautam Budh Nagar towards the East.

It fails to provide remedy to the birds. UP Government has declared 400 hectares of land to be protected land and further, as the Okhla Birds Sanctuary under Section 18 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. In terms of the provisions of this Act, obligations are placed upon the persons not to destroy, exploit or remove any wild life from national parks and also, to not carry out activities which are not allowed in that area.http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-L9GWJVySkww/UspR2UWUopI/AAAAAAAAAxc/mgMAznUryI8/s1600/JAN+5+4.jpg

From page no. 137 to 142, paragraph 60, the verdict provides its orders and directions in the matter of mixed waste incineration based power plant of Jindal Urban Infrastructure Ltd (Sukhdev Vihar Residents Welfare Association & others V State of NCT of Delhi & others).  It reads as under:

For the reasons afore recorded and in the interest of public health and environment, we issue the following order and directions:

1. We hold that the claim of the applicants in so far as it challenges the Environmental Clearance granted to the Project Proponent by MoEF&CC vide its order dated 21st April, 2007, is barred by time. Thus, for that reason and even for additional reasons stated in the judgment, we dismiss this claim of the applicant.
2. The objection of the respondent that even the other reliefs claimed by the applicants are barred by limitation under the provisions of the NGT Act, is untenable and is therefore rejected. These prayers of the applicant have been dealt with on merits and answered by the Tribunal in this judgment.
3. For the pollution resulting from deficient functioning/operation of ‘Waste to Energy Plant’ and its Stack emissions being in excess of prescribed parameters up to the period of 18th December 2014, we hold that the Project Proponent is liable to pay Environmental Compensation of Rs. 25 Lakhs in terms of Section 15 & 17 of the NGT Act, which shall be payable to the CPCB and DPCC in equal shares. The said amount would be utilized for prevention and control of air pollution in that area, subject, to the orders of the Tribunal. The ‘Waste to Energy Plant’ would be permitted to operate till further orders of the Tribunal and/or CPCB/DPCC, as the case may be. The plant shall operate to its optimum capacity and would not cause any environmental pollution. In other words, its emissions should be strictly compliant with the prescribed standards imposed by CPCB/DPCC in the Consent to Operate/Joint Inspection Reports, whichever is more stringent. The plant will be permitted to operate subject to the stringent standards and regular inspections and monitoring by the Joint Inspection Team constituted by the Tribunal vide its order dated 13th March, 2013.
4. Joint Inspection Team shall conduct monthly inspections, while one would be a surprise inspection and other monthly inspection would be upon giving notice to the Project Proponent. In other words, there will not be more than one inspection in a month. A detailed and comprehensive inspection report shall be prepared by the Joint
Inspection Team and be submitted to this Tribunal for appropriate directions. The Joint Inspection Team shall take Stack as well as Ambient Air Quality samples and analyze the same in two different laboratories i.e., CPCB and DPCC laboratories. The Project Proponent should construct an automatic segregation plant, operative within one week from the date of pronouncement of judgment, if not, made operative by 31st January, 2017. The inspecting team shall carry out detailed inspection and record its findings in relation to proper segregation of waste strictly in accordance with the Solid Waste Management Rules of 2016, initially for a period of one year and if the plant is found to be complying in all respects, then the Joint Inspection Team is to conduct inspections once in three months.
5. In the event, the plant is found to be deficient in its operations or violates the prescribed standards of emissions, it would be liable to pay Environmental Compensation of Rs. 5 Lakhs per incident, in addition to such other order or directions that may be passed by the regulatory authorities and/or this Tribunal including closure of the plant. One technical expert representing the applicant would be entitled to participate both in the surprise as well as inspections upon notice by the Joint Inspection Team. The joint inspection team shall make its recommendations to the Tribunal identifying the deficiencies/violations of parameters and their environmental  impact. Environmental compensation of Rs. 5 Lakh would be payable subject to the orders of the Tribunal.
6. The Joint Inspection Team shall collect samples from the locations at regular intervals in all directions of the plant and would analyse the same.
7. The Project Proponent would ensure that its brick manufacturing plant, utilizing the fly/bottom ash is operative to its optimum capacity. Thus, every effort would be made to minimise the transport of fly/bottom ash generated from the ‘Waste to Energy Plant’ to a landfill site. The transportation of fly/bottom ash shall be carried out strictly in accordance with the Rules while ensuring that there is no fugitive release of ash into the air either during the loading, unloading and transportation. We direct the NCT of Delhi and all local authorities in NCT Delhi to
make it mandatory for all construction projects (public or private) to use the bricks manufactured from fly ash in their construction activities. Every effort should be made by all government authorities including DPCC to popularise the use of ash bricks and to provide incentives, thereof. The Government of NCT Delhi, DPCC, joint inspection team and other concerned authorities would issue clear directions with regard to utilisation of
fly ash bricks in construction and allied activities, quality, quantity and percentage of such use.
8. The CPCB, DPCC & MoEF&CC shall direct the NCT Delhi as well as all the concerned local authorities to provide more landfill sites in Delhi and such sanitary landfill sites should be maintained and utilized strictly in accordance with the Solid Waste Management Rules of 2016.
9. The Tribunal having dealt with the issue of MSW in NCT Delhi in different cases, particularly Almitra H. Patel, Kudrat Sandhu and the present case is of the considered opinion that NCT Delhi, local authorities and even the Central Government should make contribution in all respects to ensure establishment of more ‘Waste to
Energy Plant’ at appropriate sites and strictly in accordance with the Rules of 2016. This direction is  necessitated for the reason that nearly 8300 MT of MSW will still be dumped at different sites as is being done presently.
10. Existing landfill sites should be improved, their heights should immediately be reduced and bio-stabilization of all the landfill sites should be expedited. The re-usable material particularly inert and plastic waste should be recovered and utilized for construction of roads (National Highways) and embankments in NCT of Delhi or any other area.
11. We direct that the plant should have online monitoring system which should be linked to the websites of CPCB and DPCC. Furthermore, outside its premises, the project proponent shall provide a link to the online system in the public domain to enable the public at large including the applicants to know the emission
standards and day-to-day functioning of the plant.
12. DPCC shall issue appropriate directions to all the local authorities to ensure segregation of the MSW at source. The C&D waste collected at dhallos or at source should strictly be transported to C&D Plant at Shastri Park and Burari.
13. The Project Proponent is hereby directed to improve the green belt by planting trees all around the site. It should also improve the green area which is part of the project site itself.
14. We direct that the terms, conditions and directions passed in the judgment of this Tribunal in the cases of Kudrat Sandhu and Almitra H. Patel (supra) shall mutatis mutandis apply to the project in question
as well.

61. The Original Application No. 22 (THC) of 2013 is disposed of in terms of the order and directions contained in paragraph no. 60 of this judgment. Consequently, M.A. No. 19 of 2014 does not survive for consideration and is accordingly disposed of.

At p. 44, paragraph 32, the verdict records: “Government of NCT, Delhi had not raised any serious dispute with regard to the facts stated in the affidavit filed on behalf of the project proponent and, in fact, was quite in consonance with the stand taken by the DPCC.”

At p. 49, paragraph 35 it is recorded: “The DPCC itself had no
facility to monitor emission relating to dioxin/furans.”

After recording such incompetence of DPCC and Delhi Government, NGT recommends similar plants for besides Waste to Energy Plants at Bawana (Narela) and Ghazipur. It directed the Narela and Ghazipur Waste to Energy plant to operate to their optimum capacity in accordance with law.

NGT verdict deprecates the concept of ‘Not in my backyard’ which has to be subservient to processing of waste in accordance with the Rules in the public interest but fails to accord priority to public health despite recording the violations of norms by the Jindal's plant.

ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) which has been involved in the matter from the very outset will release a detailed analysis of the 142 page long verdict and the affidavits of government of NCT of Delhi, DPCC, DDA, New Delhi Municipal Corporation and South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) besides MoEFCC and UP in due course. In this regard the role of SDMC, Government of UP and UNFCCC’s CDMEB will be significant in the days to come.

Most of the respondents including New Delhi Municipal Corporation and South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC) have referred to an irrelevant order of Supreme Court dated 15th February, 2000 for setting up of eight numbers of Compost/Processing Plants for disposal/processing of MSW in Delhi. This order is not relevant
because Court has passed relevant orders in May 2005 and May 2007. The last order of the Supreme Court is the law of the land not its older orders. NGT turns a blind eye to violation of Supreme Court's orders despite referring to it while citing Delhi High Court's orders.

It ignores scientific studies regarding the composition of the waste and its chemical characteristics create a compelling logic against waste incineration either through RDF or any other incineration technology. Indian municipal waste has 25.2 % moisture content and 23.4 % organic matter and 40.03 % ash and inert matter. In such a situation, the proposals for waste incinerators appear to be subsidy cornering initiatives which got stayed by the Supreme Court of India. 
 
The Supreme Court’s order dated May 6, 2005 wherein it said, “…we hope that till the position is clear, the Government would not sanction any further subsidies”.  It is noteworthy that on May 15, 2007, the
Court’s order "permit (s) Ministry of Non-conventional Energy Sources (MNES) to go ahead for the time being with 5 pilot projects chosen by them" but it is noteworthy that this refers specifically to bio-methanation technology. MNES has been renamed as MNRE (Union Ministry of new and renewable energy).

It ends up blaming the victims and accepting the construction and operation of the questionable plant as fait accompli.

For Details*: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb: 9818089660,
08227816731, E-mail: krishna1715@*gmail.com <http://gmail.com>*, Web:
 www.toxicswatch.org
 
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