Sunday, August 2, 2015

Bihar Chief Secretary asked to explain the legality of Ramco's asbestos factory in Bihiya, Bhojpur

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has taken notice of the fact that although the Ramco Industries Limited has permission only for one factory it is running two factories in Industrial Area, Bihiya, Bhojpur, Bihar. This came to light during the examination of NHRC case no: 2951/30/0/2011.

It has asked for comments of Chief Secretary, Bihar in this regard. It is also reported that the asbestos factory unit at Bihiya, Bhojpur is within 100 meters of human habitation in violation of the Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB)'s Guidelines prohibiting such plants in 500 meter area of residential areas. 

Notably, RIL has been given No Objection Certficate and Consent To Operate under Section 21 of the Air Act, 1981 for starting only one factory unit of 120,000 ton per year capacity. 

Pursuant to the directions of the NHRC, a report has been received from the Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai regarding the hazardous effect of asbestos. 

It is noteworthy that Bhojpur’s Bihiya based Ramco’s asbestos factory has been violating BSPCB’s Guidelines on Battery Limit. It is situated within a distance of 100-300 meters of at least eight villages like Tipura The plant is located close to a very old Mahthin Mai temple. Some 80 workers are employed by the factory

Notably, one worker, Barak Yadav of Mishrauliya village, Shahpur block, Bhojpur died while working at the asbestos factory of Ramco some 10-15 days back due to asbestos related illness. He is survived by his wife and
five children. His widow was given a compensation of Rs 5, 000 as compensation.

Notably, Ramco Industries got a clearance to set up and run a 120, 000 MT/Annum capacity of Asbestos Cement Sheet Plant. But in violation of all the rules in the rule book it is running an additional Asbestos Grinding Plant of 200, 000 MT/Annum capacity. The total project area is 20 acres and land is allotted by the state government on lease for 90 years. On May 10, 2010, the 120, 000 MT/Annum capacity project was discussed by the Experts Appraisal Committee (EAC), Industry. In the minutes of the EAC, there explicit reference to "Health Management
Plan for Mesothalimoa, Lung cancer and Asbestosis related problems in asbestos industries". The plant being established by Tamil Nadu based Ramco Industries Ltd. There is no reference to its 200, 000 MT/Annum
capacity plant. Bihar's State Investment Promotion Board (SIPB) cleared its establishment on November 23, 2009 with a total investment of Rs 60.20 crore.

NHRC "would like to know whether this plant has got environmental clearance (EC) from the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MoEF) for its 21 lakh MT/Annum capacity of Cement Grinding Plant at Industrial Area, Bihiya, Bhojpur." 

In a related situation it is relevant to note that Bhojpur’s Giddha based asbestos factory in Koilwar block has been shut down and villagers are demanding its remova. This factory of Tamil Nadu based Nibhi Industries is violating BSPCB’s Guidelines on Battery Limit fixed to ensure that such factories are set up at least 500 meters away from human habitation, national and state highway. This plant is situated behind Trident BEd College, Aryabhatt Knowledge University and adjacent to Ananya rice mill and Bihar College of education. The factory is flooded with unattended asbestos products and asbestos wastes. Since September 30, 2013, the factory has stopped its operations.

Nibhi Industries Pvt. Ltd had established the 100, 000 MT Capacity Asbestos Fiber Cement Corrugated Sheet, Flat Sheet and Accessories and Light Weight Fly Ash Block Plant. It was approved in SIPB meeting on 19th October, 2009 with a total investment for of Rs 31 crore. In response to a query under Right to Information Act, the BSPCB strangely replied that the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report of the Giddha based asbestos plant is not available with the Board. There is something quite dubious about this project. BSPCB had issued
show cause notices to the plant in the past as is evident from its submission to the National Human Rights Commission and its replies to RTI application.

Now that BSPCB has rejected the report of CPCB on construction of asbestos factory in Vaishali on the ground of violation of Battery Limit, the state government has no option but to order the closure of Ramco’s plant in Bihiya and removal of the plant structure from Giddha with a proper decontamination plan.

It is high time Bihar Government took lessons from struggles in Muzaffarpur and Vaishali saved the public health of Bhojpur villagers in Bihiya and Giddha, Koilwar from these hazardous factories which have been banned in over 50 countries due to incurable fatal diseases that are caused by exposure to killer fibers of whiet asbestos. 

For Details: Gopal Krishna, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), Mb:09818089660, 08227816731,

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