Govt move to soothe tempers-Union minister orders report on asbestos unit
Patna, Jan. 13: The fate of the asbestos factory to be set up by Calcutta-based Balmukund Cement and Roofing Limited (BCRL) at Bishnupur-Chainpur in Muzaffarpur is hanging in the balance.
Union minister of environment and forest Jairam Ramesh said his department would look into the matter before the project proceeds any further.
Ramesh told The Telegraph: “I have asked the officials of my department to look into the matter and submit a report within a week.”
The issue came to the fore after residents of Bishnupur-Chainpur village protested against the setting up of the factory because of possible environmental hazards. An impasse between the village residents and the company management has been on since last month.
Environmentalists and experts on asbestos from many parts of the world have petitioned chief minister Nitish Kumar urging him to stop the factory from being set up. The issue caught national attention after noted environmental consultant and asbestos hazard expert Barry Castleman wrote letters to Nitish and Ramesh drawing their attention over the issue.
The movement to shelve the asbestos factory has been spearheaded by SUCI and Ban Asbestos Network of India (BANI) since July last year.
The residents of the area have protested against the district administration for setting up the plant. Police lathi charged the activists who had gathered at the demonstration in front of the district headquarters in Muzaffarpur. Two leaders of the movement Tarkeshwar Giri and Kumud Ram were also arrested.
Medha Patkar, social worker and convener of National Alliance for People’s Movement, wrote a letter to Nitish demanding that Giri and Ram be released unconditionally.
Patkar, in her letter, said under National Rehabilitation Policy of 2007, it is the responsibility of the state government to ensure that farmlands are distributed properly.
The state industry department principal secretary, C.K. Mishra, said: “We have asked the district administration to hold talks with the two parties — the non-governmental organisation and the management of the company to find a solution.” Mishra added that BCRL had started setting up the factory only after getting clearance from the pollution control board.
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