It’s official: Graphite India shuts shop in Bengaluru

Draws curtains on a long-drawn fight by citizens for relief from pollution

April 03, 2019 09:19 pm | Updated April 04, 2019 09:04 am IST

Residents have complained of pollution from the plant at Whitefield.

Residents have complained of pollution from the plant at Whitefield.

A long-drawn battle between the residents of Whitefield and Graphite India Ltd. (GI) has finally come to an end with the company announcing the closure of operations of its Bengaluru plant.

In a letter dated April 3 to the Bombay Stock Exchange Ltd. (BSE) and the National Stock Exchange, which was uploaded on the BSE website on Wednesday, the Kolkata-headquartered company said, “The Board of Directors have vide a circular resolution passed yesterday evening, approved a proposal to permanently close operations in the Bengaluru plant within such time as is required by the company to obtain appropriate consents, approvals, authorisations and no objections.”

GI said an intimation had been sent to the stock exchanges on February 1, 2019 that the National Green Tribunal, Delhi, in its January 28, 2019 order, had restored the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board’s July 2, 2012 closure order.

“The (January 28th) order also required the assessment and monitoring of our Bengaluru plant in Whitefield be conducted by a committee comprising CPCB, NEERI and Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB). Since the two directions appeared contradictory and confusing, the company wrote to KSPCB on February 4 seeking a clarification as to how monitoring would be carried out if the plant operations were shut. KSPCB was requested to obtain a clarification in this regard from the NGT. No response was received from KSPCB. Instead, KSPCB withdrew the consent for operations and issued closure order on February 14 to shut down operations completely,” GI said.

GI said the Bengaluru plant began stopping production activities after the order and activities were completely shut by February 21. “Since then, there has been no communication from KSPCB as regards monitoring as directed by NGT,” the company said in the letter, adding that in these circumstances, the company “does not see any purpose in operating the Bengaluru plant.”

KSPCB Chairman C. Jayaram confirmed that the plant had been closed down. “They have asked for permission to keep the residential colony running,” he said.

‘Common man is powerful’

The Bengaluru plant has been a bone of contention between residents of Whitefield and the management.

A statement from Whitefield Rising said the factory had been “spewing black dust across a large perimeter” for four decades. “For decades, people around Graphite India have suffered. If there is one lesson to be learnt from this immense victory, it is that the common man is very powerful, every effort counts, and that efforts when united, count most,” it said.

WR said concerns about the air quality have been raised since 1997 by the residents of Seetharampalya and farmers around, but were ignored. “In 2009, the Ferns Paradise, along with Seetharampalya village residents, came together as a collective for the first time, and approached the KSPCB. Closure orders and court cases followed in the Appellate Authority, NGT, and the Supreme Court. In 2018, WR came on board with the residents and took the campaign all the way to the Supreme Court. Now, after 10 long years, we finally have respite,” said the WR statement, adding that all factories in the area can now be on alert and be sure to see citizen vigilance.

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