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Amara Raja Batteries not targeted, says Forest Secy

In some of those industries, high-level of pollution was found and Amara Raja Batteries was one among them.

Published: 04th August 2021 09:29 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th August 2021 09:29 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

VIJAYAWADA: As there was an alleged irreparable damage done to Karakambadi and its surroundings on the outskirts of temple town of Tirupati due to lead pollution caused by Amara Raja Batteries unit located at Karakambadi, the state government had filed a plea in the Andhra Pradesh High Court for its relocation from the place and even partial restoration of the damage done to the area environmentally by the company. 

Disclosing this to mediapersons on Tuesday evening, GSRKR Vijay Kumar, Secretary, Forest Department, and Secretary, Planning, dismissed reports that the government was intentionally targeting Amara Raja Batteries and maintained that what he is divulging has been reported to the High Court. “No industry was singled out, but closure and stop production notices were served as per norms,” he said.

“Amara Raja Batteries units near Tirupati and Chittoor were inspected as part of the random inspection carried out by the AP Pollution Control Board from time to time. It was one among the 54 industries that were inspected. In some of those industries, high-level of pollution was found and Amara Raja Batteries was one among them. Two months time was given to those industries for correcting the lapses in pollution control. However, Amara Raja did not comply with the norms and notices were served on it. When there was no response, after following due procedure, show cause notice for closure of units was issued,” he explained. 

He said Amara Raja Batteries was reportedly causing high-level of lead pollution to the environment, which is hazardous to human health as well as environmental safety.  “The company management approached the High Court and got a stay order on the closure order. While issuing the stay, the court had observed that it was issuing the order keeping employees’ welfare in mind. At the same time, it had directed the government to constitute a committee and submit a detailed report on pollution,” he said. 

Following the High Court order, detailed inspections were carried out by technical experts. It was observed that lead polluted effluents from the unit were released without being treated for several years. 
“According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), lead is one of the 10 highly dangerous pollutants and it affects nervous, immune, cardiovascular, respiratory system and kidneys. During the inspection, it was found that the unit had no effluent treatment plant and the lead contaminated water was being released to sewage treatment plant and the same was used for growing green belt. Subsequently, the polluted water flowed downstream and contaminated Mallimadugu, Gollapalle Tank, Naidu Tank and other water bodies. As it is located near a hill, during rains, the contamination in the water and soil is washed downstream,” he explained. 

Vijay Kumar further elaborated that it was found that Mallimadugu has 134.79 mg per kg lead contamination, Gollapalle Tank 390 mg per kg and Naidu Tank 3,159 mg per kg. “Air, soil and water were polluted, animals, plants and humans were affected. Biomagnification of lead contamination in humans was observed. It was also found that as against the permitted 28 vents, the company illegally set up 73 at its Tirupati unit and 137 illegal vents at its Chittoor unit causing air pollution. The APPCB findings were cross verified by Hyberabad based Environmental Protection Training and Research Institute, which too had found similar results after testing samples. The same was submitted to the High Court,” he said.

Further he said in the water samples from a borewell near the unit main gate lead content was 700 per cent more than permissible level and at Naidu Tank, it was 1,100 per cent excess. The most astonishing fact was that in the blood samples of workers high level of lead content was traced. Though blood tests need to be performed every six months for those exposed to lead and shifted to non-lead areas, it was not done in Amara Raja units.

“We had the samples tested by an independent organisation working with the Central government, based in Bengaluru. It was found that 12 per cent of samples had 42 micrograms per deciliter of lead. The same was explained to the High Court. When the High Court wanted a detailed study, we engaged experts from IIT Madras, but they were denied entry into the unit. A case was registered against the company for obstructing government officials from discharging their duties. When the same was brought to the notice of the High Court, it directed that no such obstructions would be allowed,” he explained. 

At a separate press conference, Government Advisor (Public Affairs) Sajjala Ramakrishna Reddy, responding to the reports that Amara Raja company was leaving the State due to government harassment, said such claims were baseless. “The APPCB and other committees have found that the unit was releasing toxic chemicals causing severe pollution and harming both human lives and the environment. The High Court and APPCB have also issued orders in this regard as they pose a threat. Nothing is more important to the government than the health of people,” he said and added that the Chief Minister wants to have industries that do not harm the people and are safe for the environment.
“The government is of the view that the company should go. What they are manufacturing is not batteries for which we do not have any objection. But, they are manufacturing pollution,’’ he said.



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