Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) on Monday issued closure notices to two private companies near Mahul village for discharging untreated chemical effluents into a creek.
Residents of Mahul have been complaining of high levels of air and water pollution for years due to the chemical refineries in the area. Villagers have expressed satisfaction at this first victory but want permanent closure to put an end to the problem.
Mahul villagers had been living next to oil refineries for years and after the setting up of two private companies right next to the village around 10 years ago, they decided to move court. The matter is being heard by the National Green Tribunal.
The villagers have demanded closure of these two companies for allegedly violating licence conditions and environmental norms and creating large scale pollution. They claim that the pollution has led to a large number of health problems among villagers including skin infection, respiratory diseases, low immunity and even cancer.
Two units shut down
P. Anbalagan, Member Secretary, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), told The Hindu that the MPCB officers who were on an inspection in Mahul found two units of the refineries releasing untreated chemical effluents directly into the creek water.
He said, “As per the government directives, untreated chemical effluents cannot be released in the creek water. As a result of this, we have issued directions to close down the operations of two units.” He refused to name the refineries. The next hearing is in July.
Villagers are happy with the first step and want complete closure of the two companies. Tara Kamble, a resident of Mahul village, said, “We are happy that at least now they realised how much pollution we have been living under. The companies are not following any rules. They never did. It took them 10 years to see this. We now want complete closure of these companies.”
Another group of residents, under the name Mahul Project-affected Committee, has a separate case being heard in the Bombay High Court. These are project-affected persons (PAPs) who lived around the Tansa pipeline, and whose shanties were demolished to remove encroachments along the pipeline. They have been demanding alternative accommodation, claiming the area is uninhabitable: they, too, have alleged large-scale health issues.
‘Want final solution’
Bilal Khan of Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan that has been working for PAPs said, “It is a welcome move but we are yet to find out it's details. However, closing companies is not the solution to our problem as high levels of pollution will take years to dissipate. We want project affected people to be shifted out of Mahul and a permanent solution.”