KOLKATA, 10 NOV: Even when the health of thousands of residents of a thickly populated area ~ Lake Town ~ is deteriorating and birds are dropping dead from trees due to emission from a hazardous chemical unit, the factory has repeatedly managed to get a clean chit from the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB).
Inaction of the board against the red category industry ~ West Bengal Chemical Industries Limited at 145/1 Jessore Road ~ is making people question the role of the inspection officials.
Dr Sudip Saha and Dr BK Mondal, residents of the area, said that number of patients complaining of nausea, gastric problem and irritation in the respiratory tract has increased manifold. A sweeper in the locality, Mr Ali, said that over the last two-three months, a large number of birds have died. He said that every morning he spots as many as 30-40 dead birds. “I have never seen such a phenomena anywhere else I have worked,” he added. The residents of the buildings located near the unit are fed up with the obnoxious smell emanating from it. In fact, they had started an agitation against the factory five years ago.
The WBPCB sent a team to inspect the factory after months of repeated requests by the aggrieved residents of the area. In 2009, a public hearing was held at the board in which a set of recommendations was issued. Needless to mention, the unit did not follow any of them and continued operation and discharging untreated waste into open drains that is connected to Bagjola canal.
In November 2010, The Statesman published two reports following which the WBPCB served a closure notice on the unit. The closure order was suspended on 20 December 2010 on condition that the unit will have to follow another series of guidelines. On 20 January 2011, the WBPCB issued a directive stating that the unit can operate for another three months as a team of officials, during inspection, found the unit complying with the norms. Till today, the unit continues to operate and the obnoxious smell that has been driving people out of their homes persists.
The industry produces chemicals like Sodium Butyrate, Calcium Acetate, Calcium Ascorbate and Calcium Aspartate. According to a reference document commissioned by European Commission, liquid waste from such a unit causes acute toxicity to fishes. Santa Cruz Biotechnology in California, USA, states that Sodium Butyrate can cause eye irritation and damage, can cause respiratory irritation and lung damage. The state environment minister, Mr Sudarshan Ghosh Dastidar, said he will instruct the WBPCB chairman, Mr Binoy Dutta, to take immediate action. Mr Dutta said that another inspection team had visited the unit last week and he will seek the report from the officials tomorrow. The general manager of the company could not be contacted.