In a report that will have far-reaching implications on the future of plywood manufacturing units, the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) appointed by the Supreme Court has found that most of the units in Vengola panchayat of Ernakulam district are functioning without the required permits and licences.
The report, submitted to the court a fortnight ago, has recommended action including closure of the defaulting units.
The CEC was appointed in a Special Leave to Appeal Petition filed by T.K. Kurien, a resident of the panchayat, regarding air, water and land pollution caused by wood-based industries in Kuttipadam area of Vengola. A report filed earlier by the State-level Empowered Committee, in a petition before the High Court, was found unsatisfactory by the Supreme Court. The CEC consisting of P.V. Jayakrishnan, Chairman, and Mahendra Vyas and M.K.Muthoo, members, inspected 20 units in April this year.
A public meeting was held on April 11 on the premises of Vengola grama panchayat. The committee collected details of all the 277 wood-based units functioning in the panchayat.
Accordingly, 276 out of 277 were found to have not complied with the Kerala Land Utilisation Order, 1967, which prohibits conversion of agricultural land for any other purpose; 132 units were operating without licence from Vengola village grama panchayat; 179 were functioning without valid consent from Kerala Pollution Control Board; 121 were not registered under the Indian Boilers Act, 1923, and under the Factories Act, 1948; 172 were functioning without NOC from District Medical Officer; 180 had not obtained permission from Fire and Safety Departments..
“The State government should review the status of compliance of the applicable Acts, Rules, Regulations and Orders by the wood-based industries and take necessary follow-up action including permanent/temporary closure of the defaulting wood-based units,” the report said. It also recommended a comprehensive environmental management plan for Vengola grama panchayat.
The tussle between plywood manufacturers and residents has been going on for quite some time in Perumbavoor where wood-based industries are concentrated.
An action committee of people had taken up agitations demanding closure of polluting units in residential areas, but a solution has remained elusive.