While the Punjab government has been finding it difficult to rehabilitate the residents of Kanakwal village affected by pollutants released by the Guru Gobind Singh HPCL-HMEL oil refinery, ironically the latter has won the Golden Peacock Environment Management Award.
The award was presented to HMEL at the annual “World Congress on Environment Management’ by Justice Arijit Pasayat, former judge of Supreme Court in New Delhi on July 11.
Residents of Kanakwal had launched an intense agitation to press the state government to relocate
them to another area. Buckling under the pressure, the government agreed to allot them land away from the oil refinery in exchange of their land at the village.
In July last year, the government had announced that 100 acres of land would be acquired in the district for the rehabilitation of Kanakwal residents, who claimed they were severely affected by the pollution caused by the refinery, but no alternate site has been selected for the purpose so far.
It is not only Kanakwal villagers, but other adjacent villages in neighbouring Haryana that have accused the refinery of causing pollution and skin diseases.
“The award is in recognition of HMEL’s sound environment management practices and effective implementation of environment management system, and continual improvement.
The award speaks volumes of HMEL’s focus on maintaining ecological balance by minimising environmental impact while carrying out industrial and business activities and its aim towards sustainable growth,” reads an HMEL’s press release.
The emission norms specified for new refineries by the union ministry of environment & forest are far more stringent than those applicable for existing refineries.
The HMEL claims that it has met all the norms that need to be adhered.
All formalities related to liquid and solid waste management has been complied with and a green belt around the refinery has been developed, it further says.
About 1/7th of the total area of the refinery is a zero bottoms, energy efficient, environment-friendly, high distillate yielding complex, it maintains.
The refinery produces clean fuel meeting Euro-IV norms and it has been cleared after a comprehensive environmental impact assessment and emission norms, it adds.
“Whosoever is giving them certificate should first visit the villages around the refinery. They should see as how our lives have been made miserable due to pollution created by refinery?” said Balwant Singh, a resident of Kanakwal.