PPCB fines mill ₹5 crore, orders criminal case for Beas killer spill
The order came after the board heard the reply of sugar mill representatives in Patiala in response to the notice issued for the alleged violation found by a probe committee.
The Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) on Thursday imposed a fine of ₹5 crore and also initiated criminal proceedings against Chadha Sugar Mill for spill of molasses into the river Beas on May 17 that killed hundreds of fish and contaminated water for several kilometres, including in canals. The fine will used to restore the ecological balance of the river system, said PPCB chairman Kahan Singh Pannu. The mill will remain sealed unless all pollution control measures are taken.
The order came after the board heard the reply of the mill representatives in Patiala on Thursday in response to the notice issued for the alleged violation found by a probe committee. Not convinced by the reply of the mill management, which deposed with a battery of lawyers, Pannu held the mill responsible for an “environment catastrophe of a very high level”. Later, he briefed the chief minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, who spoke to him in morning too.
“Beas river is the only living river of Punjab and any environmental damage to this river has to be viewed very seriously by the state and society. Moreover, the polluted water of the river created anxiety and fear in the minds of the people, and therefore the state government has to work overtime to ensure that no loss of human or animal life happens,” Pannu said in his orders that “ecological degradation caused by the incident shall take years to regenerate the ecology of the river”.
Not expressly mentioning the owners, the orders also said, “The criminal complaint shall be filed against the mill and against the persons who at the time of the offence was committed were in charge of and responsible to the company for the conduct and business of the company.” The criminal proceedings are to be filed in the relevant court by the environmental engineer of PPCB regional office, Batala, “after proper verification”.
And not only the sugar mill, but Pannu has also stopped the working of the unit of Adie Broswon Breweries Private Limited that is part of the larger complex that houses a liquor production facility, saying that it shall not restart operations until it makes fully operational its effluent-treatment plant, which was damaged due to the spillage of molasses from the mill owned by Chadha Sugar and Industries Private Limited.
Pannu said the sugal mill will not restart operations until it obtains fresh consent to operate under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, and will not store molasses in tanks other than the mild steel ones with cooling arrangements and other safety measures. The mill will have to take fresh permission from the department of excise and taxation, too, for generation, storage and sale of molasses, besides approval from the director of factories.
“The mill shall undertake an endowment programme of ₹5 crore to be deposited with PPCB as environmental compensation for causing degradation of ecology of Beas river due to spillage of its molasses in the river, on the basis of ‘polluter pays’ principal,” said the orders. “An action plan in this regard shall be prepared by departments of forest, wildlife, and water resources, PPCB, Punjab Agricultural University (PAU), Ludhiana, and Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (Gadvasu), Ludhiana.” This plan is to be spread over five years so that sustainable results can be achieved, according to the orders.
Meanwhile, Pannu also formed committee consisting of representative of the director of factories, the state excise and taxation commissioner and himself to suggest further safeguards.