Shri Raj Kumar Singh
Hon'ble Cabinet Minister
Union Ministry of Power, New & Renewable Energy
Government of India
Subject-Urgent Request: Koelwar-Bihta residents face chemical weapon like threat from 98 hazardous waste generating industrial units
With due respect this is with reference to the above mentioned subject, I wish to draw your urgent attention towards illegitimate construction activity for a hazardous waste and medical waste incineration plant by Hyderabad-based Ramky Enviro Engineers Limited in the river bed of Sone in proximity to residential areas of villages in Koelwar, Bhojpur and Bihita, Patna. It is noteworthy that in a communication sent to Union Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) by Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB). BSPCB had informed MoEFCC that most Koilwar, Bhojpur villagers are opposed to the Hyderabad based Ramky company’s proposal for a hazardous waste plant in the river bed of Sone river. The proposal for setting up an Integrated Common Hazardous Waste Treatment, Storage, Disposal and Recycling Facilities by Bihar Waste Management Limited (a Division of M/ s Ramky Enviro Engineers Ltd) at Survey Numbers Plot no: 401, Khata No: 69-68/2, 67/3, Thana no: 107, Mahui Mauza, Koelwar-Jamalpur-Babura-Chhapra road, Bhojpur, near Bihta, Patna is unscientific, anti-public health and anti-environment. (Photo: A K Jain, ex-Chief Engineer, DVC and Dharmatma Sharma, Paryawaran Swasthya Suraksha Samiti)
In its letter, BSPCB annexed the minutes of the public hearing organised by BSPCB on October 16, 2014. The letter is signed by Shri Rakesh Kumar, Member Secretary, BSPCB and addressed to Dr. Lalit Kapoor, Member Secretary, Experts Appraisal Committee (EAC), MoEFCC. The minutes were signed by Shri Suresh Kumar Sinha, Additional District Magistrate (Upar Samaharta), Bhojpur and the BSPCB Officials, Shri Nand Kumar and Shri S N Jaiswal. It may be noted that Shri Suresh Kumar Sinha, ADM, Bhojpur had addressed the villagers at the public hearing in Jamalpur, Koelwar, Bhojpur on October 16, 2014. The official proceeding of the public hearing is attached.
I wish to request you to deny any subsidy to this polluting unit and recommend cancellation of the NOC and Environmental Clearance given to this unit of Ramky company because EAC has been indifferent towards the communication of BSPCB in granting Environmental Clearance (EC) dated December 2, 2015. I submit that this project in question was rejected by EAC in its meeting dated 8-9 November, 2012. The minutes of EAC are available on EAC’s website. The Minutes of the 118th Meeting of the EAC held on 8th-9th November, 2012 reveals that the EAC concluded that M/s Ramky Enviro Engineers Ltd the project “Proponent has not justified selection of the site and also there is a habitation at about 200 m from the site which is not advisable for this type of Hazardous waste handling and incineration activity.” Disregarding its own finding under some misleading influence, the EAC in its 149th meeting held on 24th- 26th June, 2015, wrongly recommended the project for grant of Environmental Clearance. BSPCB ought to contest the grant of EC by denying/cancelling the NOC to this unit. There is a precedent in this regard in the matter of asbestos based plant in Vaishali wherein BSPCB stood its ground disregarding the report of the Central Pollution Control Board, MoEFCC. The EC records the "Major issues raised during Public Hearing". It reads: "The major issues raised during public hearing are about the air pollution due to the recycling process, burning of waste, groundwater depletion and the presence of water body within 50m from the site boundary and burning of plastic wastes leading to the formation of Dioxins and Furans." The BSPCB official admitted at the public hearing that Bihar does not have any Dioxins testing laboratory. Dioxins were used as chemical weapons in the US-Vietnam war under the brand name Agent orange.
I submit that BSPCB ought to dispute the contention of the project proponent "the land is not prone to flood and is around 1.25km away from Sone River on the western side" which is a manifest case of fraudulent misrepresentation of facts after a site visit to verify the veracity of such submission by the company. It is apparent that EAC too has been misled by the company.
At the public hearing former chief engineer, DVC and noted whistle blower Shri A K Jain questioned the inconsistent claims of the Ramky company about land, water and power by comparing its project with other projects. Shri Jain said that the company has not disclosed that this site is flood prone. This can cause a Bhopal Gas leak like disaster.
I submit that villagers had expressed their opposition to Ramky's project at the public hearing. Paryawaran Bachao Jeewan Bachao Sangharsh Morcha had written to BSCPCB pointing out the threats posed to residents of villages in Koilwar, Bhojpur and Bihta, Patna from the Dioxins emitting plant. Villagers have been campaigning against the hazards of hazardous waste dumping and burning. The site in question is in the river bed of Sone river in the vicinity of residential areas of the village in the proximity of the main road in an area of 57.24 acres.
I submit that residents will not allow the setting up of a hazardous waste incineration plant proposed in the area next to a village along the Sone river to incinerate 50,000 tonnes waste/month. The hazardous waste generated from 98 industrial units in various parts of Bihar would be transported to the proposed unit for burning, according to the proposal for the “integrated common hazardous waste treatment” plant. The villagers have learnt that the officials of Ramky Enviro Limited blatantly lied about the use of the site to purchase land. The company officials had informed the villagers that iron rods would be manufactured in the plant. Villagers have formed an association, Paryavarn Bachao Jeevan Bachao Sangharsh Morcha (PBJBSM), to oppose the construction of the plant. The association in its petition has demanded that the venue of the proposed unit be shifted from their locality to an industrial area.
I submit that burning of hazardous wastes would have long-term health impacts on people and can lead to lung and stomach cancers. In the aftermath of the industrial disaster of Bhopal, the Government of India banned establishment of such plants and instructed state governments and pollution control boards to ensure that hazardous plants should not be set up in the vicinity of residential areas. Such industrial waste and medical waste burning units too are quite hazardous.
I submit that a review of epidemiological studies on adverse health effects associated with incineration, says that medical waste incinerators are a leading source of dioxins and mercury in the environment and there is a link between incinerator emissions and adverse health impacts on humans.
In the public hearing it was submitted by the villagers that Hon'ble Delhi High Court's order in a similar case observed that “Residents living within 10 km of an incinerator, refinery, and waste disposal site” showed “Significant increase in laryngeal cancer in men living with closer proximity to the incinerator and other pollution sources”. It observed that the “Residents living around an incinerator and other pollution sources” showed “Significant increase in lung cancer related specifically to theincinerator”. The “People living within 7.5 km of 72 incinerators” displayed “Risks of all cancers and specifically of stomach, colorectal, liver and lung cancer increased with closer proximity to incinerators”. Hon'ble Delhi High Court, in a judgment delivered in 2013 based on the findings of the study had instructed the government to establish such units away from the human settlements.
Hon'ble Court’s judgment reads: “Both older and more modern incinerators can contribute to the contamination of local soil and vegetation with dioxins and heavy metals. In several European countries, cow's milk from farms located in the vicinity of incinerators has been found to contain elevated levels of dioxin, in some cases above regulatory limits. Increased levels of dioxins have been found in the tissues of residents near to incinerators in the UK, Spain and Japan. At an incinerator in Finland, mercury was increased in the hair of residents living in the vicinity. Children living near a modern incinerator in Spain were found to have elevated levels of urinary thioethers, a biomarker of toxic exposure. It notes that “After 2 years of operation of the incinerator, dioxins levels were found to have increased by about 25% in both groups living between 0.5 to 1.5 and 3.5 to 4.0 km away (201 people) of people. In the repeat analysis, the increase was in the range of 10-15%”.
The judgment records that “Mothers living close to incinerators and crematoria from 1956 to 1993” showed “increased risk of lethal congenital abnormalities, in particular, spinal bifida and heart defects, near incinerators: increased risk of stillbirths and anacephalus near crematoria”.
I submit that Ramky's EIA report is quite misleading. It ignores the nearest schools, hospitals, CRPF camp and the Koilwar railway station. It refers to Ara railway station as the nearest railway station. BSPCB does not have the capacity to test and monitor dioxins emissions. It came to light that BSPCB is not enforcing environmental laws in the 99-125 factories from which hazardous industrial waste is generated which requires disposal and treatment at the palace of their generation.
Citing these facts at the public hearing held on 16.10.2014 at Ambika Sharan Singh High School, Jamalpur, Post- Naya Mohammadpur, District- Bhojpur, the villagers said that they will pay any price to stop waste from hundreds of factories and thousands of hospitals from coming to Koilwar due to imminent public health crisis the present and future generations of residents of villages on the Babura-Koilwar road in Bhojpur, Bihar. There was unanimous political opposition to Ramky's irresponsible, insensitive, anti-people, ant-environment and anti-health proposal. I can share the documents and the video of the proceedings of the public hearing given to me by BSPCB under Right to Information Act.
In view of the above, I earnestly request you to kindly ensure that the construction activity of Ramky company is stopped at the earliest to save residents of Koelwar-Bihta from chemical weapon like threat from 98 hazardous waste generating industrial units and medical waste units.
Gopal Krishna, LL.M., Ph.D