In light of Patanjali Foods Ltd., formerly Ruchi Soya Industries, discharging ‘untreated trade water’ into the natural drain that joins the Phalguni river, the Member Secretary of the Karnataka Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has been recommended to close down the industry operating in Baikampady Industrial Area.
In a May 31, 2023, letter to the KSPCB Member Secretary, the KSPCB Environment Officer B.R. Ravi, Mangaluru said, “It is evident that the industry has violated the consent conditions issued under Section 25 of the Water Act and knowingly discharged untreated trade water outside the industry, which is joining the backwaters of Gurupura (Phalguni) river and deteriorating the water quality.”
“Hence, it is recommended to issue the closure directions to the industry under Section 33 (A) of the Water (Prevention and control of pollution) Act 1974,” he said. Mr. Ravi has also sought administrative approval for filing a criminal case for discharging untreated trade effluent into the natural drain.
The action by the KSPCB follows leakage of palm stearin from a tanker. (Palm stearin is the harder fraction of palm oil that contains a higher proportion of saturated fatty acids). On April 28, 202,3 night, the tanker entered the industry and soon after, one of its tyres got punctured. The driver lost control over the vehicle and it toppled after hitting a wall in the unit. This resulted in damage to the tank and 16 tonnes of palm stearin being leaked out. The Ruchi Soya authorities managed to plug the leakage and recover about 15 tonnes, but in the process the remaining palm stearin flowed out to join the natural drain outside the industry.
Following complaints by local residents, KSPCB officials inspected the industry on May 31.
During the inspection, the KSPCB team found high traces of oily sludge and black colour water in the drain within the industry premises. “There is a thick oily layer and palm stearin contamination of water in the natural storm water drain outside the industry and it was found that the discharge of oil is from the industry,” the inspection report stated. Though the incident resulting in leakage of palm stearin happened on April 28, the industry failed to report it immediately to the KSPCB, the officials noted in the inspection report.
In a show cause notice issued to the industry on June 2, Mr. Ravi said in light of blackening of Phalguni (Gurupura) river due to discharge industrial trade effluent, the industry was directed not to discharge any type of waste water into the stormwater drain. It was also directed to remove all pipelines from the industry leading to the drain. “But till date you have not submitted any reply to the notice nor removed pipelines carrying effluent/stormwater from the industry”.
A trench has been laid to connect the natural drain to Kundumburu rivulet, a tributary of the Phaluguni and thus the waste water from the industry is contaminating the rivulet. Mr. Ravi directed the industry to close the trench forthwith. He directed the industry to remove the water mixed with palm stearin stagnant in the drain outside the industry, and dispose it after scientific treatment. The solid palm stearin waste in the drain should be disposed of by taking necessary approvals from the Board.
Accordingly, the industry has been draining out stagnant water and removing the solid palm sterin since June 2.
The Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) staged a protest in front of the industry on June 2 demanding the government take strict action against the industry. Its State president Muneer Katipalla alleged that the industry is regularly discharging untreated effluent into the river. The DYFI took a team of reporters to the spot on June 3 to show them the pollution.