In a welcome move for the residents of Whitefield, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) will not renew its “consent for operation” to Graphite India (GI) Limited to run its factory in the locality. The consent by the state pollution control board is mandatory for all red category industries to run operations in India.
This comes after KSPCB chief Lakshman visited the factory floor on Wednesday as promised, along with the residents and found that the factory was not complying with requisite air pollution norms. Prior to his entry to the factory unit, he also witnessed the accumulation of graphite soot at the RxDx hospital right opposite the factory, which locals say is the most obvious sign of the violation by GI.
Officials found that the factory had broken side panels and roof which led fugitive dust escape into the surroundings. Incidentally, these fixes were supposed to be done by GI in 2014 as suggested by an appellate court. Moreover, the KSPCB chief noted that the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) mandated air pollution sensors were kept in the wrong location and the smokescreens were not up to the mandated norms.
Kolkata-based GI is a manufacturer of graphite equipments, steel, glass reinforced plastic (GRP) pipes and tanks and is also involved in generation of hydel power. It has six factories in India and one in Nuremberg, Germany.
Speaking to TNM, Lakshman said, “We have not renewed consent of operation as there were multiple non-compliances. For the next three days, we will monitor the air quality with a mobile van.”
However, the KSPCB chief said that the Board cannot do much if the factory continues to function as the factory management has got a stay from the appellate court.
He added, “We will move the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to vacate the stay order so that we can impose a closure order.“
For close to two decades, residents of Whitefield have been fighting against GI for not following pollution norms and getting away with legal loopholes. In the process, residents of the area allege they have been exposed to far greater amount of air pollution and as a result are at risk of several health complications.
While the KSPCB had initially served GI a closure notice in 2012 for failing to comply with CPCB norms, residents allege that the authorities including the KSPCB have been lax in taking the matter to its logical conclusion, after the company got a stay.
Unsatisfied with the legal stalemate, some of the residents approached the appellate court and impleaded themselves. However, due to factors such as shortage of judges, the matter is still sub judice. In this regard, Lakshman promised the residents that he will ask the case to be heard at the Delhi bench of the NGT.
One of the activists of Whitefield Rising remarked, “The solutions to the problems are simple like fixing the roof and having sufficient measures so that there is no fugitive dust.”
The activist added, “The same company in its German factory can comply with all the norms which are much more stricter there. But here, they can’t do even this.”
In fact, Kolkata-based GI has recorded Rs 957 crore in net profits in April-June 2018 quarter compared to Rs 1,032 crore in net profits in the previous fiscal.