Cleaning Up Industries

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Industries should be made to strictly follow environmental safety norms

An inspection by officials of the Goa State Pollution Control Board and experts has revealed gross irregularities by the management of four fishmeal and fish processing units at the Cuncolim Industrial Estate in disposal of waste. The inspecting team found that owners of the fish processing units were discharging untreated effluents into the borewells that were clandestinely dug around the units. The illegalities would have gone unchecked had it not been for some vigilant people from the area who dared to complain. A ground penetration survey revealed the presence of borewells connected with chambers, pits, pipes under the concrete slab following which a team of GSPCB scientists and others conducted an investigation to detect the borewells. The team found three borewells buried under concrete slabs at Sagar Feeds and Processing Industries, while six borewells were detected at the premises of Indotech Ice and Cold Storage and also at Quality Food. It is surprising that none of the government officials working at the Cuncolim Industrial Estate could detect the illegalities that could cause serious damage to the groundwater, the soil and the environment.

The malpractices must have been going for years together and would have gone undetected but for the vigilant people from the area. It is surprising to note that wells for disposal of untreated industrial waste were dug out and the pipelines were laid without them being ever noticed by official teams that are expected to inspect industrial premises for violations of environmental regulations. This is not the first time that illegalities, especially by fish processing units, have been noticed in the Cuncolim Industrial Estate. Were the state authorities actually unaware of the illegal operations or did they turn a blind eye to them? The disturbing discovery of violations indicates that there was no supervision from any of the many government agencies. The local legislator, Clafasio Dias has called for strict action against those involved in illegal activities that could have caused an epidemic. One of the concerned industrial units has approached the Bombay High Court and got a stay to prevent officials from carrying out a penetration survey to locate wells.

The people from Cuncolim have for long been complaining about contamination of water in their wells. This could be because of release of effluents by industrial units into the wells within their premises and the water therefrom seeping into the wells nearby. Though the issue was brought to the notice of government officials on several occasions, there was no action taken. The issue was also brought to the notice of Chief Minister Pramod Sawant during his last visit to the area. The Chief Minister had promised an inquiry into the allegations and effective steps to stop the violations and the water pollution. People would expect Sawant to keep his promise of strict action against the perpetrators of illegalities. Now that the suspicions of the people have been confirmed by an inquiry done by experts, the Chief Minister and heads of concerned departments and agencies must act firmly against those playing with the health and life of the people. The earlier the action is taken, the better it will be.

There is possibility of similar illegal discharge of effluents going on in other units of the Cuncolim Industrial Estate and other industrial estates. The Chief Minister must seek the active intervention of the Goa State Pollution Control Board to carry out inquiries into the allegations and suspicions of such violations throughout the state. There have been complaints of untreated industrial waste being disposed of along the roadside and in open spaces. It is for the government authorities, especially those of the GSPCB to check the irregularities and malpractices in industrial units and ensure that every unit follows the environment and safety guidelines strictly. There is a need for the government to make the concerned agencies stronger in terms of manpower, equipment and financial support, so they can maintain a constant vigilance to prevent hazards to the environment being caused by unscrupulous businesses. While there should be no interference in the day to day activities of the industries, the government has to ensure that the rules pertaining to health, safety and environment are strictly followed and the violators are severely punished.