The supreme court-appointed Central Empowered Committee (CEC) started inspecting the wood-based industries including plywood factories and neighbouring localities in Kuttipadam division in Vengola panchayat on Wednesday. The different stakeholders in the industry are considering the visit of the high power committee as a very “significant step”.
The committee is headed by P V Jayakrishnan, the chairman of the CEC and other members include Mahendhra Vyas and M K Muthoo. The committee is assisted by important government officials in the district including RDO, Moovatupuzha, District Medical Officer, Malayatoor DFO, Deputy Director, Panchayat and chief environmental engineer, regional office, Pollution Control Board, Ernakulam.
The supreme court intervention is the result of a special leave petition filed by T K Kurien, a resident of the Vengola panchayat. T K Kurien had filed a case in High Court alleging that plywood factories are operating in Vengola violating all governmental norms and legal specificities which is resulting in grave levels of pollution. He did not get a favourable verdict from High Court and hence he filed an appeal in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court in an order in April 2012 had directed the state pollution control board to critically study and submit a report to the court about the ground reality.
But the Supreme Court in an order in February 1, 2013 observed that “we are not satisfied with the report submitted by state pollution control board, Ernakulam, which was apparently made without hearing people living in the locality.” The bench led by Justice Aftab Alam directed “the CEC to make a spot inspection and to furnish a report.” The order also said that in the “course of inspection, the CEC shall also hear the people living in the locality.”
Shanavaz, Moovatupuzha RDO, who accompanied the team representing the district collector told Express that the team had visited 16 plywood factories in Kuttipadam division.
“The team asked minute details about different dimensions of the plywood industries to the various government department heads. Team has noted certain violations of rules by certain factories in the region. The nature and gravity of the violations will be made public later,” he said.
Devaraj, Malayatoor DFO, said that complaints related to violation of Forest laws are being evaluated by the CEC. Dr Haseena, DMO said, “The official version of health department has been communicated to CEC.” Varghese Pullanezhy, chairman of the Action Council for Environmental Protection, the NGO that spearheaded agitation against factories said that “environmental groups are eagerly waiting for the report by CEC. We hope it will be an unbiased report.” Mujeeb, president of plywood manufacturers’ association also welcomed the CEC team.