Environment

Graphite India Fined for Polluting Whitefield in Bengaluru The company was found to have violated pollution norms

THE SUPREME COURT on Tuesday directed Graphite India, a company that manufactures graphite-based products, to pay compensation to the residents of Whitefield in Bengaluru, Karnataka for violating pollution norms and causing degradation in air quality in the area.

The court has given Graphite India time till 29 October, which has been fixed as the date for the next hearing, to come up with a figure to compensate the litigants for past pollution.

The graphite factory was set up in Whitefield in the outskirts of Bengaluru in the 1970s. The area has now developed into a populated residential and commercial hub.

The residents of Whitefield have been complaining about the black soot released by the factory for over two decades now. Not only is every surface constantly covered in the graphite particulates released from the factory but residents have also complained of developing health issues like breathing problems, lung impact and spitting out black phlegm.

An NDTV report found that the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) has been receiving complaints about the factory since 1980. Since then, the company has not only been asked several times to furnish reports on how they plan to curb the pollution they are causing but to also fix their sheds and machinery.

The matter was also taken to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) but the residents received no response.

A survey of the factory was finally conducted on 19 September after Sunita Narain, Director General of the Centre for Science and Environment and a member of the Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA), directed the KSPCB to do so. The survey found that Graphite India had not complied with the requisite air pollution norms and was denied consent for operation.

In a BSE filing in response to KSPCB’s survey, Graphite India stated that it has “always been a law abiding entity and gives utmost importance towards statutory compliances including environment matters.”

The company has also been hauled up for their continued usage of domestic pet coke in their plant. According to the law, only imported pet coke is allowed in factories as domestic pet coke has a higher concentration of sulphur and gives off a bad smell.

The fine on the company has been imposed under the principle “polluter pays” for violating pollution norms.

Pragyan Sharma, counsel for Whitefield Rising, a body representing the residents of Whitefield, argued that Graphite India had been submitting only ambient emissions (measured at the chimney level) and had not taken into account fugitive emissions escaping through the broken roof.

So far, Graphite India has maintained that it has not violated any pollution norms with their counsel Shyam Divan arguing that this was not a pollution case.

~ENDS~

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