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Chemical unit forces people out of their homes

KOLKATA, 3 NOV: Pungent smell and loud noise from a chemical factory in Lake Town have not only forced several people in the area to leave their homes, but according to the locals, have also been taking a toll on the health of the people in the surrounding areas. Strangely, it took three years for the West Bengal Pollution Control Board to take any stringent action against the unit.
The West Bengal Chemical Industries Limited at 145/1 Jessore Road is situated in a thickly-populated area of Lake Town. Several houses and residential complexes surround the unit. Foul smell emanating from the unit has made lives of locals miserable. Not only this, the chimneys emit black fumes because of which the houses facing the unit have to keep their windows shut throughout the day. Several people have left their houses and people who are still living have to put up with the situation as the officials of the unit, despite several requests from the locals, have continued with their operation.
“My wife is a cancer patient and has to live on oxygen. She also suffers from breathlessness. Each day her health keeps deteriorating. Neither can we open the window nor can we switch the air-conditioner,” said Mr Arya, whose apartment faces the chemical unit.
Mr Shekhar Roy, a resident of Block A, said that several people in area suffer from lung problems. When they went to ask the officials of the unit about the product it manufactures, they refused to tell them. “Though we do not have medical reports that prove that the fumes from the unit are the reason behind it, it is a known fact that most of the cases were lung cancer,” he said. The unit also stores tanks full of furnace oil near the residential area posing a fire hazard.
The residents of the area with the help of an organisation called Peoples’ Green Society, had submitted a mass petition at the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) in 2006 complaining about the air and noise pollution caused by the unit, following which the WBPCB sent a team to inspect the factory.
In 2009, a public hearing was held at the board in which a set of recommendations were issued and the vice-president of the unit was instructed to submit an action plan in line with the recommendations within two months.
The unit continues to discharge untreated waste-water and the foul smell has forced residents out of their homes. On 16 August 2010, another petition was submitted with the Pollution Control Board. Mr Biswajit Mukherjee, chief law officer of the WBPCB, said: “An order against them has been issued. We will be calling the unit owners for a hearing soon.” The general manager of the company refused to talk.

Soma Basu

Soma Basu

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