Giridih: During this rain-soaked season, when people across Jharkhand are enjoying the monsoon, thousands of villagers living near the iron and steel industry belt of Giridih, have been deprived of enjoying the rains. The life of the people of this town, which is just 220 kilometers away from Ranchi, has not been smooth; thanks to the incessant water and air pollution caused by these steel and iron plants.
Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Vijaya Jadhav, who has earned the title of Lady Singham had been regularly receiving complaints regarding the sudden rise in pollution rate. Right from the mukhia (panchayat head) to concerned citizens had raised an alarm before her.
A staff of Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Giridih said, “People had been complaining for quite some time about them contracting respiratory problems, tuberculosis, asthma and skin related diseases. They also maintained that the pollution was ruining not just the greenery of the area but also its water table. Many have complained of borewells drying up.”
On early Thursday morning, the IAS officer paid a sudden visit to inspect the area. Following which, Jadhav told eNewsroom, “I reached the spot early in the morning because I knew that if it will be in normal day hours and with media persons, the news might get leaked to factory owners. And, they might cover up most of the irregularities.”
Due to non-availability of any camera person, the SDM herself clicked pictures of the smoke emitting chimneys and dust-covered expanse of land. She later shared the same with journalists.
“Pollutants like Ferro Manganese, Silica and Coal are toxic and can choke one’s breath within a few hours. The level at which their percentage is rising at an alarming level in the specified area,” mentioned the IAS after her inspection.
There are least 20 units of Iron and Steel factories operating in Mohanpur, Manjhiladih, Mahtodih, Bhorandiha, Chatro and its adjoining area. Interestingly, there is a question mark over the possibility of the area being an industrial belt first. About 30000 people inhabit the area surrounding these factories.
While the officials are yet to give an official statement on the same, the locals have claimed that it’s a complete residential area, which off late is being converted into an industrial area.
The website of Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board (JSPCB) itself mentions at least 8 industries—Saluja Steel & Power Limited, Atibir Industries Co. Ltd (unit I), Atibir Industries Co. Ltd (unit II), Biswanath Ferro Alloys Ltd, Harshit Power & Ishpat Ltd, Venkateshwara Iron & Sponge (P) Ltd, Santpuria Alloys (P) Ltd, and Balmukund Sponge & Iron Ltd, under the category of highly polluting industries. There are total 52 such industries across Jharkhand.
“While inspecting, it came to my notice that there were no ESP (electrostatic precipitator) running in any of the factory. I have been told that the ESP is undergoing maintenance. When I confronted the officials, they claim that they run it for 12 hours day and did not use them during night hours. However, whenever I cross those areas, I never found them functioning,” she claimed.
Jadhav also questioned why the state pollution control board official, whose office is in Hazaribagh itself, has never taken action against such factories. She pointed out, “While, one cannot tell the exact Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5 in Giridih, it feels that it is present in an alarming percentage if it could not be controlled, it will put Giridih’s air quality at par with Delhi.”
She then added, “I have also asked about activities related to Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) of these companies in the pollution affected areas.”
The IAS officer also claimed that there are several kinds of violations taking place by these companies, and from carbon, coal to environment cess all should be levied on every company.
She then added, “I am going to show cause all the industries for the polluting their area. I am not against industry, because its gives employments. But earning at the cost of public health is not acceptable.”