BENGALURU: Residents of Whitefield, who have been fighting a long battle against the Graphite India Ltd (GIL) factory in the area, celebrated victory on Monday as the company agreed to pay Rs 50 lakh to the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) under the ‘polluter pays’ principle. Residents, facing several health issues due to the emission of black soot and other pollutants, welcomed the move but said they were apprehensive that the plant, currently offline, may start again soon.
The country’s top court had on October 23 asked GIL to let it know on Monday how much they were willing to pay. During the hearing on Monday, senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing for GIL, told the bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur that he has taken instructions from the company and it is willing to pay Rs 50 lakh to KSPCB.
Advocate Aparajita Singh, assisting the court as an amicus curiae, agreed with GIL’s proposal and said there was “fugitive emission” in the area and GIL was “putting their house in order”.
An advocate, appearing for residents of Whitefield, claimed that GIL’s plant was there since 1997 and they have also filed a plea on the issue before the National Green Tribunal.
“You pursue your petition pending before the NGT,” said the bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur and also comprising Justices S A Nazeer and Deepak Gupta.The bench, after hearing the submissions, asked Graphite India Limited (GIL) to deposit Rs 50 lakh with the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) within two weeks and made it clear that it would be without prejudice to the rights of the parties.
GIL counsel told the bench that KSPCB could utilise this amount for dealing with measures to curb pollution in Bengaluru’s Whitefield area where the plant is situated.The development was also confirmed by Karnataka State Pollution Control Board Chairman Lakshman, who said the money would be used for the betterment of Whitefield and surrounding areas.
Zibi Jamal, a member of Whitefield Rising, a group of citizens of Whitefield, hailed the Supreme Court’s ruling, and said, “This is a moment of victory for us as after a decade-long battle with the pollution-causing factory, the residents of Whitefield will now breathe clean air.”However, residents are apprehensive that the factory, which has been shut down currently, would begin production again within a month.
According to a statement given by GIL to the Bombay Stock Exchange, the company said traffic in the area was the primary source of air pollution and that it had already taken corrective measures for 3 out of 4 directives by the KSPCB. “The Bengaluru plant has voluntarily initiated process of halting manufacturing process for revamping the broken roof sheets.
The shutting down of the furnaces (by October end) will accelerate the process of revamping which would be completed by November 2018,” the statement to BSE says.GIL then clearly states that the plant would re-commence manufacturing after the repairs and that KPSCB would be approached for a clearance again.
(with inputs from agencies)