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Bihar State Pollution Control Board’s inquiry report on asbestos company’s claims not public as yet

Written By Krishna on Sunday, April 07, 2013 | 8:29 AM

High Court to hear March 4 petition of Utkal Asbestos Company on April 8  

Patna/New Delhi: The inquiry report of Bihar State Pollution Control Board on asbestos company’s claims following the direction of Chief Minister of Bihar on February 13, 2013 has not been made public as yet. On March 4, 2013 the team of Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) visited the factory site of Utkal Asbestos Limited (UAL) renamed as M/S U.A.L Industries Limited in Chaksultan, Rampur, Rajdhari near Panapur in Kanhauli Dhanraj Panchayat, Goraul, Mahuwa, Vaishali. 

It may be noted that “Since new asbestos use is banned in developed world, the global asbestos corporate is trying to create new markets in the countries with weak legislation” such as India. Bihar Government can act to protect public health because health is a State subject and show the path to the central government

The Chief Minister gave the directions when a delegation of Khet Bachao Jeevan Bachao Jansangharsh Samiti and senior political leaders from left parties met him at his residence. The Patna High Court is all set to hear March 4, 2013 petition of Utkal Asbestos Company on April 8. The petition was filed on the same day on which BSPCB team visited the proposed plant’s site for inspection as per Chief Minister’s order.

The company has not disclosed to the Court about BSPCB’s inspection about the veracity of the company’s claims is underway. It is noteworthy that the Sub Divisional Officer (SDO), Mahuwa Jyoti Kumar, has expressed his worry about the imminent water crisis in the area when officials of UAL Industries Ltd and members of Khet Bachao Jeevan Bachao Jan Sangarsh Committee comprising of villagers of Kanhauli Dhanraj Panchayat of Goraul block met in the office of Sub Divisional Officer (SDO), Mahuwa, Vaishali on September 28, 2012 to discuss the grievances against the lung cancer causing factory.  This was the second tripartite meeting was necessitated by villagers Mahadharna of June 14, 2012 against the plant. A similar meeting was held on June 30, 2012.

It has come to light that the Circle Officer of the area is believed to have wrongly informed the BSPCB that the fertile patch of agricultural land verifiable from the land records was ‘barren’ by trusting the flawed EIA report the company. Villagers have explained how fake public hearing and faulty environmental clearance happened by blatant factual misrepresentation. A total of 4 pages as against more than 300 pages of EIA were given to the villagers. The EIA report referred to agricultural land as barren land. When UAL representative and EIA consultant was asked to explain in the tripartite meeting in the office of Sub Divisional Officer (SDO), Mahuwa, Vaishali on June 30, 2012, the EIA consultant replied that by barren he meant vacant land. This clearly exposes the false claims of the company. 

The No Objection Certificate and Consent-to-Establish certificate given to UAL Industries Ltd by BSPCB had expired on September 1, 2012 (Memo No. T.13350). It is not clear whether the certificate has been renewed.

As per Environmental Clearance letter dated February 23, 2012 given to M/s UAL – Bihar (A Unit of M/s UAL Industries Ltd.) at Village Chak Sultan & Rampur Rajdhari,  Goraul, Vaishali, Bihar, UAL’s claim is mentioned as “Total land acquired is 18 acres of barren land of which green belt will be developed in 6 acres (33%) of plant area.” This claim about barreness of the land is deeply flawed. The letter also reveals UAL’s claim that “Total water requirement will be 120 m3/day and will be sourced from own bore wells” amounts to 43800 m3/annum. The District Magistrate, Vaishali also stated in the meeting held in his office on November 10, 2012 that the claim of meeting this water requirement from its own bore well cannot be trusted. He had asked the company to submit a report to him regarding its proposed ways to meet the water requirement for the proposed asbestos based company during the tripartite meeting with the villagers and the company officials. It is not clear whether the same has been submitted.

The environmental clearance letter for plant reads: “To educate the workers, all the work places where asbestos dust may cause a hazard shall be clearly indicated as a dust exposure area through the use of display signs which identifies the hazard and the associated health effects.” 

There is an intriguing silence about health hazards to the villagers who live in the proximity of the hazardous asbestos plant. Asbestos is a hazardous mineral fiber which remains always lethal and causes incurable lung diseases.

Villagers and the Khet Bachao Jeevan Bachao Jansangarsh Committee are bitterly opposed the proposed construction of the plant. They have consistently been supported by all the left parties who have issued letters of support from the very outset.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, a UN agency says, “Asbestos, is a potent human carcinogen; and amount of asbestos already released in the environment creates a situation where exposure to chrysotile products remains the leading cause of mesothelioma in the world.”

Professor Elihu D Richter MD from the Hadassah School of Medicine of Hebrew University, Israel says: “All form of asbestos kill. India should bury asbestos, not people….India should not repeat the mistakes of going back some 70 years which will kill tens of thousands of workers and their families” during his visit to New Delhi. By taking decisive steps, Bihar Government can pave the path for the central government to revise its past support to the hazardous asbestos industry. 

For Details: Gopal Krishna, Convener, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Web: www.toxicswatch.org, E-mail: gopalkrishna1715@gmail.com
Ajit Kr Singh, Convener, Khet Bachao Jeevan Bachao Jan Sangharsh Committee (KBJBJC), Vaishali, Mb: 09931669311, E-mail:ajeetsinghpushkar@gmail.com
Ravindra Prasad Singh, KBJBJC), Vaishali, Mb: 8986980751  

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