the Oswal Chemicals and Fertilizers Limited's plant , located at Paradeep on the Orissa coast, recently got its seventh closure notice from the Orissa Pollution Control Board (opcb). Only one of these notices, served in the past four years, asked for a partial closure. The rest ordered complete closure. But the plant has amazingly never stopped production except for a few months in 2003, according to an opcb official. With even the latest notice being unable to close the plant more than 20 days after its issuance, the question is: can this polluting factory ever be checked?
O swal first got permission for this plant's trial run from January 20-31, 2000. Permission to continue was denied because the plant was found flouting pollution norms. But it continued functioning. Following complaints from various sections of society about gas leakage, effluent discharge and other glitches, opcb constituted a Surveillance Committee which visited the plant in October 2000. The board subsequently served a show cause notice, in which it charged the plant with flouting more than 20 of its 30 norms. In response, Oswal sought more time to improve facilities. But the opcb denied this. Even so, the plant wasn't shut down; the drama continued.
The plant is currently facing four court cases. One of these even questions the role of a civil court in helping Oswal get back a bank guarantee of Rs 20 crore. People have now pinned their hopes on members of parliament belonging to the Committee on Science, Technology, Environment and Forests, who visited the plant after opcb's latest order was issued on January 28, 2005. But the visit has had no outcome so far.
Regarding the fate of its order, opcb's environmental engineer Nihar Ranjan Sahu says: "We are not the enforcing authority and hence had asked the district magistrate and collector of Jagatsinghpur to shut the industry within seven days of the directive's issuance. The Collector sought extension of the deadline, since he felt that if the huge stock of chemicals in the plant remains idle, they may have other hazardous effects.' The matter has also been referred to the Central Pollution Control Board, Sahu adds.
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