Stir against sponge iron factory in Kerala

March 13th, 2008 - 6:35 pm ICT by admin  

Palakkad (Kerala), March 13 (IANS) Fearing pollution, local people have started an agitation against a sponge iron factory at Malampuzha, near Palakkad town close to the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border. Kerala Sponge Iron Limited has the capacity to produce 100 tonnes of sponge iron per day. It is now on a trial run under the supervision of an advocate commission following a Kerala High Court direction.

The factory promoters approached the high court as the village council of Pudussery, where the factory is located, declined to grant license citing pollution threat.

“The factory is located in the catchment area of Malampuzha dam. It uses iron ore and coal as raw materials. This will pollute the water, air and soil,” secretary of the Malampuzha Dam Samrakshana Samithi P.S. Panikkar told IANS.

“The dam supplies water to around 2 million people in Palakkad municipal town and eight panchayats,” he said. He added the unit also poses threat to the nearby river Korayar.

Factory officials on condition of anonymity said that it is for the advocate commission to verify the charges of pollution. “The commission is now overseeing the working of the unit. It has got pollution and health experts in the team. They are directly witnessing the operations. Based on the commission’s findings, the court will decide on the license to the factory.”

They added that the sponge iron unit is not located in the catchment area. “We showed the people using a GPS (global positioning system) survey that the factory is not located in the catchment area.”

Those opposing the factory are sceptical about the trial run under way at the factory. “The trial run began Feb 24. We suspect that factory is not working in a full fledged manner,” Panikkar said.

He said the Kerala Pollution Control Board had initially denied permission to set up the factory at the site. “But, later the government constituted an expert committee to look into the issue. The report of the committee was favourable to the company, though it put forward some tough conditions. This report helped the company to approach the court for a license,” he added.

The activists fear that the factory will cause widespread air pollution as strong winds coming through Palakkad Pass, which connects Tamil Nadu and Kerala, will spread pollutants over a large area in Kerala.

The Malampuzha Dam Samrakshana Samithi would hold a public convention on the issue at Palakkad March 20.

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