WHEN RESIDENTS of a group housing society in Sector 81, Gurgaon, asked the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HPCB) about the mysterious smell from the adjacent “highly polluting” brake shoe factory, the HPCB conceded that they could not test beyond suspended particulate matter and asked them to approach a private air quality testing facility instead.
The ‘burning rubber’ smell grows more pungent at the children’s playground, from where the factory can be seen. Hence, it doesn’t surprise the 26 members of the society’s ‘A Fight for Clean Air’ WhatsApp group that children here take medicines, usually reserved for smokers, to relieve their cough. Among the pollutants residents wanted tested by the HPCB are some listed by the World Health Organisation as carcinogens – such as asbestos and formaldehyde.
Less than a month ago, residents wrote to the HPCB demanding the factory be shut down. Following the testing for pollutants, residents of the sprawling society, home to at least 1,000 people, said they planning to approach the National Green Tribunal. ”The factory manufactures brake shoes using asbestos and resins which emits noxious smells/emissions,” wrote Karuna Sharma, a resident, asking the HPCB to test for 12 components, including formaldehyde, asbestos, phenol, xylene, ethylbenzene.
“We cannot establish the cause of the smell. The tests we had done for ambient air quality were within limits. For their satisfaction, we advised residents to approach a private laboratory,” HPCB’s Ranbir Singh Rathi told The Indian Express. Though ambient air quality tests include tests for odour-monitoring and industrial air-sampling, Rathi admitted that the HPCB did not have the required equipment.
Rathi added that Haryana government’s town planning department sanctioned the residential colony in an area having several factories. In fact, the Vipul Lavanya Apartment block is surrounded by factories on three sides — while one has since shifted out, the other factory that manufactures electrical switches causes noise pollution and black smoke is emitted occasionally from its diesel generators.
The brake shoe factory, ASK Automotive Pvt. Ltd, meanwhile, said that they have complied with all directives. “We had several meetings with residents and the authorities and have complied 100 per cent with all directives given to us after the inspections,” said an HR representative of the company, adding that the factory deals with asbestos “only when necessary” and has all the required environmental clearances.
A former Central Pollution Control Board scientist, who was approached by the residents, said the smell might be emitted from the use of an adhesive in the factory. “The residents who went on an inspection of the factory say that the smell is prevalent inside the factory premises, which also highlights a health hazard for the workers,” he said.
Gaurav Arora, who moved here a year ago, is planning to leave. “My elder daughter, aged 7, has developed a persistent cough since we moved here.”