Mrittikaa

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Archive for Wasteland

Dumping waste & piling up hazards…

KOLKATA, 13 JUNE: For the past four years, the Bidhannagar Municipality has been dumping waste in Mollar Bheri that falls within the boundary of the East Kolkata Wetland without permission from the East Kolkata Wetland Management Authority (EKWMA).
Salt Lake’s waste was being dumped in Mollar bheri since the 1960s. After the East Kolkata Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Act came into force in March 2006, the CPI-M led Bidhannagar Municipality chairman, Mr Biswajiban Majumder, met the officials of the newly formed EKWMA and sought permission for dumping of waste at Mollar Bheri on 27 November, 2006.
The EKWMA issued a no objection certificate (NOC), valid for a year on 1 August, 2007 on the condition that a boundary wall should be built around the dumping ground to check spillage and plastic should be segregated outside this area. The NOC was to be renewed every year after submitting a detailed report to the pollution control board and the EKWMA. After that the NOC issued by the EKWMA was never renewed. Neither the boundary wall was constructed nor the segregation was made effective. According to scientists, scientific and layered landfilling of such dumping grounds are the cheapest and the most effective way in which the waste gets decomposed over the period of time and methane gas could be easily trapped. But, landfilling at Mollar Bheri has been so haphazard that scientific landfilling has become impossible.
The officials of the EKWMA sent a notice to the municipality in 2009 seeking the current status of the dump site, but the notice was ignored. On 14 February, 2011, chairperson Ms Anita Mandal and the CIC garbage Mr Debasis Jana of newly-formed municipal board run by the Trinamul Congress were called for a meeting where they were told categorically that the unauthorised dumping of waste at Mollar Bheri would be stopped by issuing a notice.
“We know that an alternate space has to be found for dumping the waste, but the municipality has to come up with a plan, said Mr Nitai Kundu, chief technical officer of EKWMA.
Mr Jana refused to speak about the matter. However, he highlighted several other plans of solid waste management for which the civic authorities had shown an expenditure allocation of Rs 1.75 crore in the previous budget. He said that the municipality is planning to set up a solid waste management plant and vermicompost plant at Mollar Bheri. The structure of the vermicompost plant has already been completed, he added. Interestingly, the structures he referred to was built during the chairmanship of Mr Biswajiban Majumder and now lies defunct.
Mr Jana also talked about generating energy from the waste dumped at Mollar bheri. However, such a technique of waste management had successfully been experimented by the West Bengal Renewable Energy Development Agency (WBREDA) at Mollar Bheri in April 2005. But the project could not take off as the fate of the dumping ground came in question and waste from Salt Lake was not enough to implement the project.

Soma Basu

When rules are meant to be broken…

According to the Environmental Performance Index (PC-EPI) compiled by the Planning Commission to devolve funds to the states based on EPI ranking, West Bengal ranks 30 among 35 states and Union Territories evaluated with a paltry score of 0.4769 on a scale of 1. It flounders in its efforts to protect its environment and it lags behind Maharashta, Tamil Nadu, Orissa and the North-eastern states. The Statesman looks at the five of the most abused legislations in the state.

Norm 1 ~ The West Bengal Inland Fisheries Act, 1984 (amended in 1993), The West Bengal Town and Country (Planning and Development), Act, 1979, Section 24 of the Water (Prevention & Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, and 4D of the West Bengal Land & Land Reforms Act, 1956
What does it state ~ Inland Fisheries Act bars filling up of any water body ~ measuring five cottahs or more ~ where water is retained for minimum six months.
State of affairs ~ With realty boom in the city and the outskirts, existence of waterbodies has become precarious. The areas of Baguiati, Laketown and Bangur that once had expansive water bodies, have now become jungle of concrete structures. In March, the state fisheries department had accused West Bengal Housing Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (Hidco) of filling 33 waterbodies for the construction of New Town Township violating the Act.

Norm 2 ~ Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981.
What does it state ~ Establishes the regime and defines the actors in the prevention, control and abatement of air pollution in India.
State of affairs ~ Even after two years of Calcutta High Court verdict on scrapping the two stroke autos, old but repainted autos continue to rule the roads in city and suburbs. The Pollution Control Board fails to check industrial pollution arising out of unorganised sectors such as lead battery and acid manufacturing units. Sponge iron units continue to cough poison into the environment. Effluents from several orange and red category industries are seen flowing through open canals and drains in the city.

Norm 3 ~ The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974. The act was amended in 1988.
What does it state ~ Contamination of water or such alteration of the physical, chemical or biological properties of water or such discharge of any sewage or trade effluent or of any other liquid, gaseous or solid substance into water as may or is likely to, create a nuisance.
State of affairs ~ Thousand of industries on the banks of rivers in the state continue to dump effluents in the rivers. The pollution control board and the municipalities have failed to check sewage flow into the rivers. The Ganga Action Plan launched by the Government of India with much fanfare has failed miserably in its objectives.

Norm 4 ~ The West Bengal Trees (Protection & Conservation in non-forest areas) Act, 2006.
What does it state ~ Felling of trees in non-forest and urban areas can be allowed only for valid reasons.
State of affairs ~ Not many in the city know that cutting a tree for trivial reasons is a punishable offence. In case complaint is lodged, police arrest labourers while those who ordered the trees to be cut get away. Punishment is easily evaded by paying a bribe of few hundreds. It should be noted that 80 per cent of saplings die within weeks due to lack of maintenance.

Norm 5 ~ The Bio-Medical Waste (Management and Handling) (Amendment) Rules, 2003
What does it state ~ It shall be the duty of every occupier of an institution generating bio-medical waste to take all steps to ensure that such waste is handled without any adverse effect to human health and the environment. Bio-medical waste shall be treated and disposed of in accordance with the rules.
State of affairs ~ The government hospitals are found to be frequent defaulters. While the blue and black bags carrying waste sharps and blood soaked cotton are seen littered at several places. There is no separate VAT for red or yellow bags that contain infectious waste or human anatomical waste. The waste collectors are highly exposed to infection and diseases as they carry such bags, to be dumped in a truck, with bare hands.
The state pollution control board had slapped a closure notice on Calcutta Medical Research Institute (CMRI) for failing to dispose of infectious biomedical waste properly. State-run Calcutta Medical College and Hospital, Howrah state General Hospital, and Uluberia sub-divisional hospitals had been fined in the past.
Though the Kolkata Municipal Corporation repeatedly denies the fact, but biomedical waste is often seen dumped in Dhapa.

OF HOPE AND DESPAIR…

HOPE ~ E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011: With the recent notification of E-waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2011, the state would soon have an e-waste reprocessing unit.
The rules that will come into effect from 1 May, 2012 state that all old computers and electronic equipment will have to be disposed of to authorised collection centres that would deal with electronic waste.
A recent study by the state pollution control board along with the Central pollution control board, the Indian Chamber of Commerce and German organisation GiZ has found that nearly 26,000 tons of e-waste is generated in Kolkata, Howrah, Salt Lake, Kalyani, Barasat and Uluberia. The recent study predicts e-waste generation will shoot up nearly six times to about 1,45,000 tons within a decade. The concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) has been incorporated in the draft rules. Accordingly, the producers are required to finance and organise a system for environmentally sound management of e-waste generated from their products.

DESPAIR ~ Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2011: On 19 February, 1991, the Union ministry of environment and forests issued a notification under Section 3 of the Environment Protection Act of 1986, seeking to regulate development activity on India’s coastline.
There have been about 25 amendments to this notification between 1991 and 2009, some of which have been based on the directions of the Supreme Court. In May 2008, the MOEF brought out a new draft CRZ notification that evoked much criticism from all sections of stakeholders. Eventually, this notification was allowed to lapse and the ministry brought out a fresh notification in September 2010, which after much discussions, was finally passed as Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2011 on 6 January, 2011. With respect to the list of prohibited activities, four other exceptions have been now incorporated which include projects of Department of Atomic Energy; facilities for generating non-conventional energy sources and desalination plans, development of greenfield airport permitted only at Navi Mumbai; and reconstruction and repair of dwelling units of local communities. However, fishermen communities claim that their demands were yet again neglected.

Soma Basu

Purulia turns into haven for illegal mining

PURULIA, 11 MAY: Almost 25 years ago Kanai Mahato, owner of a plot on Paharigora hill, Sautaldih in Purulia was scared to walk uphill to collect minor forest produce because of leopards. Today, he is scared of quarry owners who have turned the forest-covered hill, teeming with pangolins, wolves, leopards, elephants and various avian species, completely barren with continuous mining. Mahato now works as a daily wager in the quarry with irregular pay and no medical insurance, to boot.
The leopards are now a thing of the past. And quarry owners and mafia have taken over the land that once belonged to his forefathers. Mahato now is an intruder on his own land! The natural resources of the hill are being exploited to the hilt so much so that locals believe that Paharigora hill would soon disappear from the geographical map of Purulia. “The hill has 60-70 acres of Reyaiti land. In 1985, a group of men started blasting the hill with dynamite. When landowners resisted, gun-wielding men chased them away. When the agitation intensified, some were offered money to keep mum,” said Jagat Mahato, a local farmer. Mahato’s land has become low yield as grey slush and stone chips flood his tract during rains. Owners of agricultural land in Sindurpur, Gourha, Dipawra, Deuli and Oshurban are at the receiving end as dust from the quarries harms rice sprouts.
It took several years for the villagers to unite as more than 2,500 people from the village worked in the quarries and mining kept their home fires burning. But inhuman working conditions in the quarries disillusioned them soon.
Every week, 15 to 20 people are injured in blasts at the site that continue from 6 am to noon. Those critically injured have to travel 42 km to reach Purulia Sadar Hospital, as the nearby public health centre is defunct. An average of five people are reported to die every year during accidents at the site. Most of the deaths go unreported. The labourers who work in the quarries do not get proper wages, let alone compensation in case of accidents or death. “In 2004 a truck going uphill lost control and tumbled down. Twelve people died in the accident but none of them has received compensation,” recalls Mohan Kisku, a labourer at the site.
In 2009, a group of villagers and workers started an agitation. Complaint letters were sent to the district land and land revenue officer (DLLRO), block land and land revenue officer (BLLRO), the district magistrate and police. “I had asked the DLLRO to start an inquiry and see whether the quarries are illegal. The details are with the DLLRO,” said Purulia DM, Mr Avanindra Singh.
According to locals, the quarries were shut for four months on 17 November, 2010. However, with the declaration of election in the state, the work has resumed.
The DLLRO, Mr Dilip Kumar Ghosh, said: “We do not give licence to quarries. We have, however, issued a quarry permit to Mr Mohanlal Khowala, owner of Isco Track Sleepers Pvt Limited, for carrying 60,000 cft of stone.” He denied having received any objection from landowners of Paharigora.
Sources said that Mr Mohanlal Khowala, a relative of an influential CPI-M leader, Mr Dilunath Lodha, has been collecting a royalty of Rs 30,000 from 20 other quarry owners to let them operate using his permit.
Another local said that a year ago when a group complained to the CI of Sautaldih police outpost, Mr Tapas Chatterjee, he asked the protesters how much money they need. Mr Asit Pandey is the new CI but the situation hasn’t changed much, alleged locals. Phatick Tiwari and Pradeep Agarwal, mafia from Purulia and Jharkhand, respectively, who supply stone across the border, run a nexus with police and government officials, sources said. Whoever protests is either bribed or threatened, he added. It’s not only the loss of timber, wildlife and bio-diversity that is at stake, a section of tribal population comprising the Orang, Munda, Hansda, Kisku, Bawri has left the region. Such is the apathy of government officials that locals have lost all hopes of a redressal. “We will soon have to move out of the village. How can we fight with mafia with not even police by our side?” asked Moti Murmu, a resident of Sindurpur.

Soma Basu

Paharigora Hill in Purulia.

PCB fails to check sponge iron dirt

KOLKATA, 11 FEB.: About 52 per cent of the sponge iron factories in the state fail to meet emission standards and do not comply with green norms as the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WPCB) does not monitor these factories regularly, shows finding of a study on the sponge iron industry released by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a New Delhi-based research and advocacy organisation, in the city today.
The study also finds that repeated offense is a common practice amongst these factories as the WBPCB board did not carry out stack monitoring for one-fourth of the sponge iron factories in the state even once every year.
More than 40 per cent of the sponge iron factories in the state have been found to be violating environmental norms when inspected by the WBPCB and the action taken by the board ~ show cause and closure notices and even closure of factories in some cases ~ have not had the desired effect, reads the report.
The main environmental concern associated with the sponge iron industry is air pollution. This is largely attributed to non-installation or non-operation of pollution control equipment.
According to the study, in the state, most of the sponge iron factories are found to be running with air pollution control equipment. But installation of pollution control equipment does not necessarily mean operating them and meeting emission standards. “92 per cent of the inspection reports show abnormally high emissions from kiln and the night inspection reports show 100 per cent of the sponge iron factories bypassing pollution control equipment,” said Mr Chandra Bhushan, deputy director general of CSE.
The study finds that most of the sponge iron factories in the state are not disposing their solid waste properly, leading to air and water pollution and degradation of land. “Our pollution control boards are weak and our enforcement actions too feeble to enforce compliance,” said Mr Naba Dutta, secretary of Nagarik Mancha, a city based NGO.
Mr Bhushan stressed on the need for changes in the Environment Protection Act and strengthening of the pollution control boards to enable effective monitoring and enforcement.
The CSE study has documented the environmental and social impacts of 15 sponge iron clusters spread across Orissa, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. These clusters have become the hub of protests owing to pollution from these factories destroying agricultural fields, associated impact on health and change in livelihood patterns.

Soma Basu

Corruption, land grab unite political rivals

KOLKATA, 19 JAN: A house and pond owned partially by an 80-year-old woman in the Rajarhat-Gopalpur area, has attracted politico-environmental contention with both the CPI-M and the Trinamul Congress illegally trying to make the property accessible to a real estate developer for constructing residential apartments.
The house, built in the 1930s, is one of the oldest in Baguiati’s Gautam Para and named after Santosh Kumar Gautam who helped form the locality. The developer, Mr Prabir Ghosh, is the Licensed Building Surveyor (LBS) of the Rajarhat-Gopalpur municipality and brother of local Trinamul Congress councillor, Mrs Kakuli Ghosh Bagui.
The 34-cottah property, initially owned by Mr Gautam, passed on to his daughters, Mrs Geeta Chatterjee and Mrs Shefalika Chatterjee. The property includes a 10-cottah pond. Mrs Shefalika Chatterjee had sold her portion of the land to Mr Prabir Ghosh. Half of the house was demolished and in the process Mrs Geeta Chatterjee’s portion was damaged and half of the pond filled up. Demolition debris and other wastes were dumped into the pond, affecting the quality of the water and killing fishes.
Mrs Geeta Chatterjee said: “They could have at least left the pond alone. That pond was constructed by my father with his own hands.” She alleged that the promoter had tried to grab her portion of the land and brought goons at the dead of the night to threaten her. Her elder son had to leave the house and shift to another place for his daughter’s safety.
She had complained to the chairman of the Rajarhat-Gopalpur municipality, Mr Tapas Chatterjee of the CPI-M, but no action was taken. The state fisheries department had inspected the area and on 14 May, 2009 it issued a stop-work order on the pond filling and directed for its restoration.
Mr Chatterjee claimed ignorance of the situtation and said he would check records. Incidentally, the fisheries department had asked the civic chairman to ensure that the stop-work and restoration is carried out.
Mrs Kakuli Ghosh Bagui refused to comment. Her husband, Mr Someswar Bagui, the ward committee secretary, initially refused to admit that Mr Prabir Ghosh was Mrs Bagui’s brother. He later said that they have a no-objection certificate for the construction and pond-filling, dated 3 September 2009, from the assistant secretary of the fisheries department. Meanwhile, an environment protection committee set up in the area has been campaigning against the work by putting up posters all over the neighbourhood. However, they refused to divulge their identity.

Soma Basu

Green activists slam pollution control board

KOLKATA, 16 DEC.: Representatives of more than 16 environment and forest rights NGOs submitted a deputation with the chairman of the West Bengal Pollution Control Board alleging that the board has failed to implement its own laws against the highly polluting sponge iron units in Durgapur, Bankura, Purulia and Jhragram regions.
The conglomeration also staged a demonstration in front of the WBPCB and handed out leaflets to the pedestrians. The deputation submitted with the chairman of the WBPCB, Prof PN Roy, reads 14 charges against the board leveled by the environmentalists.
The environmentalists said that since December 2009, the state pollution control board has taken a number of decisions contemplating action and has passed orders to stop pollution. None of the orders have been effective. Fines have been collected from the errant sponge iron units as punishment for polluting the environment but the villagers who have been affected due to this have not been compensated for loss of crop or traditional livelihood, they alleged.
It should be noted that the highly polluting units have reportedly been discharging untreated waste into the open affecting the crops and polluting the water bodies on which farmers and their cattle depend.
Mr Naba Dutta, general secretary of Nagarik Mancha, said that the officials of the WBPCB on 7 April had assured that action would be taken against the units. On 28 July, they held a consultation meeting. “It has been months since the officials promised us that action would be taken against the polluting units. We are not telling them to break the law. We just want them to implement the laws that already exist,” he added.

Soma Basu

Stink city: Lake Town air remains putrid

KOLKATA, 10 DEC: A month after the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) served a closure notice to the West Bengal Chemical Industries Limited in Lake Town, little is being done for the waste treatment.
The water body inside the factory premises remained covered in a pitch-black slick that flows in an open manhole and is ultimately dumped in the already overpolluted Bagjola canal.
Mr Subhas Dutta, a green activist, who had visited the unit, said that the pond inside the unit was filled to the brim with untreated waste.
The unit was closed after locals complained of foul smell emanating from the unit and also about the smoke and noise that the factory produces. The Statesman had earlier carried a report on how the unit had made the lives miserable in the area. The WBPCB had directed the unit to set up a pollution control system in the premises before approaching the board for consent to operate.
Mr Surajit Pal, general manager of the unit, claimed that a device for pollution control and waste treatment is being set up in the premises and the work is almost complete. When this reporter requested him to show the device, Mr Pal said that it is not possible as the officials of the WBPCB were due to arrive shortly to inspect it. Interestingly, Mr Biswajit Mukherjee, chief law officer of the WBPCB, said that the officials will inspect the unit and look into the measures taken by it secretly.
Moreover, the officials of the unit had been claiming repeatedly that the unit falls under orange category as per the categorisation of the WBPCB. But after a resident of the area filed an application under RTI seeking the nature of the industry, the WBPCB confirmed that it was under the red category.
Industries in the red category is not permitted to operate in municipal areas. Mr Mukherjee said that since the unit was set up in late 50s, it could operate after installation of proper pollution control devices. Units belonging to the red category who have applied for consent to establish after December 1997 are not allowed in Municipal areas falling under Kolkata Metropolitan Area (KMA). Mr Dutta said that apart from installing pollution mitigating devices, such industries are also considered for relocation, as its effluents are harmful for people residing in the area.

The factory ~ M/S West bengal Chemical Industries Limited, Jessore Road, Kolkata. Listed under Red Category by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board. The factory claims to be manufacturing Sodium Butyrate

What officials say ~ When the residents complained about the foul smell coming out of the unit, the officials said that the smell actually helps in digestion and gastric problems, alleged the residents

What doctors say ~ The fumes can damage body’s immune cells and lead to Vitamin B deficiency, cause bronchial asthama, shortness of breath, gastric irritation, nausea, vomiting and several other side effects

Agitation ~ Petitions were submitted by the locals on 3 November, 2006 and 10 August, 2010. A closure notice was served by WBPCB on 10 November, 2010

Soma Basu

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