Wednesday, December 27, 2006

i was googling for some information and news article regarding sponge iron industry of india hit my attention.

one such aritlce is from hindu businessline. the US based midrex says as follows.
Midrex said with 6.53 million tonnes production, India had become the world's largest producer of sponge iron. It recorded a 16.87 % increase in production from 5.59 m t to 6.53 m t in 2002.

then i goodived (google seearch for information from specific site :) ) into hindu businessline for sponge iron news.

then an article from downtoearth caught my attention. sponge iron industry in india is responsible for massive pollution, displacement, destruction of forests and not even one hindu businessline article had info about it.

guess, when it comes to business press of india, only money, GDP counts and all eyes are closed.
if respected hindu newspaper is like this, you can hardly imagine how bad other news media groups will behave.

and no wonder success of hazardous industries like sponge iron is being touted as 'development'.

below is a press release from a group that is campaigning against sponge iron industry.

People demand a right over their own environment
PRESS NOTE – 21st December 06, Nagpur
In a meeting held in Nagpur today different non-governmental organisations, autonomous peoples' movements and environmental experts came together to discuss and highlight the adverse social and environmental impacts of the growing Sponge Iron industries in the country. The groups resolved to launch a national campaign "SAVE LIVELIHOODS AND ENVIRONMENT from Sponge Iron Industry" to address the issue. Sponge iron is being produced increasingly in India for the production of steel. India is the largest producer of sponge iron in the world today, making more than 111 lakh tonnes of sponge iron per annum.

The Central Eastern belt of the country including the states of Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and West Bengal is the key region for the growth of this industry. Sponge iron factories are also present In Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and even Maharashtra. In fact, several units are present in and around Nagpur as well.

For almost five years now, large scale protests have come up in all these regions against these Sponge Iron plants. These are areas which, apart from being mineral rich, are also forest rich and dominated by tribal and forest dwelling communities dependent on subsistence agriculture for their survival.

The key issues of protest have been - air and water pollution impacting the environment and hence adversely affecting health, agricultural produce, water sources, and livestock grazing fields and the local livelihoods The situation is getting graver as companies continue to operate without pollution control devices, continue dumping hazardous wastes from the plant into forests, rivers and fields and continue setting up new plants and expanding old ones despite opposition from Gram sabhas and project affected communities.

The largest producer of Sponge Iron in India is Jindal Steel Private Limited (JSPL). A risk appraisal study conducted by Environmental Engineer Sagar Dhara in Raigarh District reveals that "there is a significant cancer risk and an elevated non-cancer toxic risk to a population of 1.9 lakhs in a 10 km radius around the JSPL sponge iron plant.

The study also concludes that "Similar cancer and non-cancer risk contours would exist for other sponge iron plants, which would be in direct correlation to their production and use of air pollution control devices. There would also be crop yield loss around the sponge iron plants." Sagar Dhara, pointing out the environmental hazards of these plants said "Sponge Iron plants release hazardous pollutants like cadmium, nickel, hexavalent chromium (most dangerous through air and water), arsenic, manganese, and copper. The heavy metals in these particulate matters are most dangerous and cause quick damage to fruit bearing trees, agricultural harvest and the human body especially the lungs".

Since an earlier study of a sponge iron plant in Orissa also indicated the existence of similar risk levels, the study has recommended that JSPL and other sponge iron plants should be closed forthwith by revocation of their Consent for Operations and other environmental consents. These plants may be opened only when it can be demonstrated that they can be operated without risk to human health, crop yield loss and other environmental injury. In January 2005 there had been a massive protest by 1000s of people in the Environment Clearance Public Hearing for the JSPL's expansion of the Sponge Iron Plant at Raigarh. Despite this the expansion received a clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The Central Pollution Control Board has issued a set of draft guidelines and standards for Sponge Iron Plants to operate that would help prevent pollution. Chandrabhushan from the Centre for for Science and Environment and Deputy Editor Down To Earth said that "these standards are highly inadequate and will not address the issue of pollution from these plants" Members of local village and tribal communities from Sundergarh in Orissa and Raipur district in Chhattisgarh who attended the meeting put forth the fact that they have repeatedly raised issues of pollution with State Pollution Control Boards as well as at Environment clearance public hearings but have got no response from the government authorities or the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

Said senior activist Gautam Bandhopadhyaya at the press conference after the meeting in Nagpur "We have to look at this issue as a larger developmental issue where industry is being given priority over agriculture at any cost as is happening in Singur, West Bengal or with POSCO in Orissa or any other large project". The campaign is clearly demanding that if the industry cannot be made zero-risk then these plants should be stopped from operating and new plants should not be commissioned

Issued bySave Livelihoods and Environment from Sponge Iron Industry – Campaign


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