Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Dec 10:
Polluting stone crushing units continue to mushroom all over the place violating citing criteria prescribed by Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) as the state government’s effort to keep operators of these units in check appear to have gone in vain.
While the huge demand for stone chips due to the spurt in construction activities has made the sector lucrative for upcoming entrepreneurs, lax regulation by statutory authorities has encouraged them to violate the pollution norms – and enabled them to get away with it – for far too long.
Even an Odisha High Court order for closure of all such non-compliant stone crushing units in 2010 has failed to deter the owners of these highly polluting units. In its order, the court had directed district police authorities to assist the OSPCB to enforce the closure of all illegal crusher units. Soon therefater, the Forest and Environment department had issued a notification for regulating the establishment and operation of such units in the state. But nothing has come out of it even three years down the line.
According to the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, no stone crusher shall be allowed to operate within one kilometre from a town or village boundary and within half a kilometre from National and State Highways. But crushers continue to violate these rules with impunity.
According to sources in the Pollution Board, the crusher owners don’t even bother to get the consent to establish and operate their units. Of the roughly 1900 stone crushers operating in the state, 400 are run illegally. A majority of such illegal units are operating in Jajpur, Chandikhol and Khurda areas, informed an official of OSPCB.
Attributing the mushrooming of crushers by the side of the highways to the lackadaisical attitude of the administration in allotting licenses, OSPCB sources said. Pollution by stone crushers is routinely overlooked, in the process, giving the crusher owners an unwritten authority to violate all pollution norms.
Most of these units have been found to be flouting the guidelines, sources said, adding that the enormity of health hazards faced by the people living within the dust prone area of the units called for an immediate check of the menace.
Meanwhile, Forest and Environment secretary RK Sharma has shot off a letter to Additional Chief Secretary, Revenue and Disaster Management and Principal Secretary of Home department to direct district collectors and SPs to crack down on stone crushers units violating environment norms.
Sources said about 327 crusher units have been served show cause notices and 84 demolished. Last year, the state government asked 398 stone crusher units to stop operations for violation of environment norms.