After a scheduled spot inspection of the situation by a three-member committee of the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB), led by member secretary Babu Ram, on Tuesday, the leather industry hopes for relief and in the form of lifting of the 15-day closure.
The industry was forced a 15-day closure by the PPCB from December 14 onwards due to its failure to maintain prescribed standards of sulphide level at the common effluent treatment plant (CETP) being controlled by the Punjab Effluents Treatment Society (PETS), a special purpose vehicle created for the purpose.
Criticising the dictatorial attitude of the PPCB in forcing the closure, the industry had termed the decision as unjustified, unwarranted and detrimental to the fiscal health of the industry.
"The industry has lost over Rs 100 crore due to this closure. The snag at the plant was accidental and the PPCB was well aware of the upgrading process being undertaken at the CETP. We rectified the snag within 24 hours but the closure has not been lifted, even though different officials of the PPCB have been regularly visiting the site," said Steven Kler, chief executive of PETS.
The HT team visited the leather complex on Monday and found remedial measures being undertaken by the industrial units on a war footing to secure a clean chit from the inspecting team. All the drains were being cleaned up using JCB machines and the sludge was being removed to ensure the smooth flow of contaminated water.
The sludge, thrown outside along the drains, was spreading foul smell but industrialists justified this act by saying that after drying the sludge would be shifted from the place to a plant situated at Nimbua near Patiala.
"The cleaning of all the drains is being done after a very long time. Lots of sludge has been removed. We have removed 60 trucks of sludge so far from the complex," Kler revealed.
On December 10, environmentalist Balbir Singh Seechewal and PPCB authorities had found untreated water being released from the CETP into the Kala Sanghian drain. A pipe was also found laid underground to release untreated water in the sewage drain.
PPCB chairman Ravinder Singh, after visiting the CETP and a long discussion with the PETS management at the local PPCB office, had imposed a 15-day closure on all the units.
Earlier, sulphide contents were found in the sullage at 2,000 points which was much higher than the prescribed 50 points.
There are 54 units in the industrial complex and the units had been contributing `30-35 lakh for the maintenance of 5mld treatment plant on the monthly basis. The CETP is being maintained by Ramky Infrastructure Limited.
Revealing remedial measures taken by PETS, secretary Ajay Sharma revealed, "The sulphide contents were brought back to around 50 level within three days. We have added the necessary infrastructure at CETP also. On the instructions of the PPCB, the process of cleaning the drain had also been initiated. We are also going to add automatic machinery to clean the drains. Moreover, PETS had decided to continue with penalty of 5% of bill amount on Ramky, the contractor."
Meanwhile, senior environmental engineer SP Garg, talking to HT, revealed, "After the inspection, a status report would be submitted to chairman of the PPCB on Tuesday to seek further directions."