A foaming Waldhuni near Samrat Ashok Nagar.(Sourced)
A foaming Waldhuni near Samrat Ashok Nagar.(Sourced)

Maharashtra pollution board shuts down 4 industries; pulls up civic body over river pollution

An environment group, petitioners before the Supreme Court, flagged violations through three complaints between November 26 and 28
By Badri Chatterjee | Hindustan Times, Mumbai
UPDATED ON DEC 07, 2020 01:22 PM IST

Acting on a series of complaints of pollution in Ulhas and Waldhuni rivers, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has directed four industries to close down and issued show cause notices to local municipal bodies.

Environment group Vanashakti, petitioners before the Supreme Court (SC), had flagged violations through three major complaints between November 26 and November 28 wherein a large stretch of Waldhuni river along the Ulhasnagar railway station was spotted foaming with effluents. Industrial effluents were also discharged into Waldhuni near Vriddhashram Pipeline Road at Ambernath, leading to a reddish layer over the water, and the third complaint pertained to a stench at night near Ambreshwar Shiv temple at Dombivali Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) where untreated effluents were entering Waldhuni.

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“Acids and hazardous chemicals are being discharged into the river. There is no fear of the law among the polluting industries of various MIDCs in the Ulhas-Waldhuni influence zones,” said Vanashakti director Stalin D.

Responding to the complaints, MPCB said that an investigation was undertaken by a team of officers between November 28 and December 1 that confirmed each of the complaints to be accurate. “As the Supreme Court monitors the progress, we are following a focused approach to ensure natural streams are not polluted and there is proper treatment by industries and effluent treatment plants. However, both industries and civic bodies need to work harder. They have made a timeline for improvement and should stick to it,” said Ashok Shingare, member secretary, MPCB.

According to a letter regarding the action taken, MPCB regional officer (Kalyan) SL Waghmare said the white foam near Samrat Ashok Nagar was due to the sewage treatment plant under the Ambernath municipal council (AMC) being non-functional. “In this regard, the board has issued a show cause notice to the AMC,” read Waghmare’s submission. In the second case, MPCB confirmed they saw a reddish coating on the surface water upstream of the Vriddhashram pipeline road coming from electroplating (metal surface treatment) industries in Additional MIDC Ambernath. Also, municipal solid waste and tree trunks had clogged this stretch of the river at one end. “We issued closure notice to four industries and a show-cause notice to another industry,” said Waghmare.

At MIDC Dombivli, MPCB found excavation work had damaged a pipeline carrying effluents from industries that had leaked into the river while AMC had allowed the discharge of a part of domestic sewage into Waldhuni despite having an underground sewage system. While the executive engineer Dombivli MIDC was directed to investigate and take action against those responsible for damaging the pipeline, a show cause notice was issued to AMC for inadequate treatment.

Supreme Court to hear matter this Friday

On November 3, the SC bench of justices DY Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee, while hearing Vanashakti’s application, had pulled up the Maharashtra government for shoddy efforts to address water pollution at Ulhas and Waldhuni rivers based on a two-day inspection report of both rivers by the Central Pollution Control Board and National Environmental Engineering Research Institute in September. The report found at least 139 industrial units to be responsible for causing pollution, and suggested 25 specific recommendations to improve water quality.

The SC bench directed immediate implementation of the report suggestions and the state chief secretary to oversee it. Subsequently, the Maharashtra government submitted an affidavit confirming that suggestions would be implemented, and squads had been made to detect pollution and nab offenders. It also stated that these squads would commence action from November 18. However, a series of violations have now been unearthed by petitioners, and confirmed by MPCB. The matter before the Supreme Court is listed to be heard on December 11.

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