A week after 32 ready-mix-concrete (RMC) plants in the city were asked to shut down because of dust pollution from the operations, the Mumbai regional officer of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), who
had supervised investigations in the case, has been shifted from office.
Environmentalists said the sudden transfer could be because of lobbying by construction companies that were punished for running RMC plants. On Sunday, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) — Watchdog Foundation — filed a complaint with the MPCB, saying that an honest officer was transferred for penalising companies accused of violating air pollution rules.
“We filed a complaint with the member secretary of the pollution control body that an honest regional officer, Dilip Khedekar, responded to air pollution grievances with utmost efficiency and took action against three RMC plants by shutting them down on Malad-Marwe road last year,” said Godfrey Pimenta, trustee, Watchdog Foundation.
An official from a company that operated an RMC plant in south Mumbai said, “After the MPCB visited our site, they had observed that we already had a dust separation and collection system in place. Dust pollution takes place when dry cement falls on the main road. We were asked by the MPCB officials to sprinkle water every three hours for the dust to settle down.”
HT had reported first on February 11 that the MPCB had inspected more than 80 RMC plants in Mumbai between January and February and had sent warnings to operators of 65 plants that were found to be polluting the s urrounding areas. On March 13, 32 of the 65 plants were issued closure notices because they were found to be flouting pollution control rules.
“We lodge our strongest protest against the transfer by the member secretary under pressure from builders and developers that own these 32 RMC plants that were issued closure notices by Khedekar,” said Pimenta.
While issuing closure notices, Khedekar had said these RMC plants had failed to implement a dust separation and collection system to control air pollution problems. The warnings were issued in February after state environment minister Ramdas Kadam raised the issue in the state assembly. He had asked MPCB to investigate the problem. After repeated attempts to get in touch MPCB, officials refused to comment regarding the matter.