RESIDENTS OF Wagholi and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) will have to await the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) order on October 20 to take a decision on the stone crushing plants located in the area. The district administration, in its affidavit, has said that while clearances have been given for these units, the responsibility of following the norms lies on them.
Last year, the MPCB had decided to shut 106 stone crushing plants after repeated complaints of air pollution. After the crushing units started complying, the MPCB gave permission to re-start 56 units. However, for the remaining units the decision will be awaited.
The MPCB officials said that the final call for these units will come about only after the NGT order. The decision on whether they should be allowed to operate or not will be made after the order as the residents had complained about smoke engulfing the area, causing severe air pollution.
The board was pulled up by the NGT for not taking action against erring stone crushing units and quarries. The units that were issued closure fell in Wagholi, Lonikand, Bavadi and Perne in Haveli taluka. In the district, there are 500 stone crushers and about 600 stone quarries, and they supply rubble for various construction works.
The units were asked to follow environment norms and the conveyer belts used in stone crushing units were asked to be covered as the open conveyer belt could let off dust in air, causing gross air pollution. It was pointed out that the rules were implemented poorly, leading to massive air pollution. The residents of the area, in their petition, had prayed for closure of these units as it was damaging air, land and agriculture in the vicinity, demanding strict action against these operators who do not comply with necessary rules and regulations.
The district mining officer in his affidavit, of which The Indian Express has a copy, has said that environmental bodies — SEAC and SEIAA — had granted environmental clearance and the Air Quality Monitoring too was readied by a private firm and the affidavit states that the analysis of ambient air quality is within permissible limits.
The affidavit has put the onus on the unit operators of the 107 stone quarries of villages Wagholi, Bhavadi, Lonikand and Perne.
As per the terms and conditions, every quarry lease holder should take all possible precautions for the protection of environment, wild life habitat, flora and fauna of that area and control of pollution while conducting quarry lease of minor minerals in the area for which such quarry lease is granted. Every lease holder should undertake quarry operation of any mineral in the area with the lawful permission granted by the competent authority under The Maharashtra Minor Minerals Extraction (Development and Regulations) Rules, 2013 and in accordance with terms and conditions of quarry lease. “Thus, it is the responsibility of every quarry lease holder to comply with the terms and conditions of quarry lease granted to him. If any quarry lease holder is found to breach any of the conditions mentioned therein, then strict action should be initiated.” The affidavit states that a flying squad at tehsil level for illegal extraction and transportation of minor minerals has been prepared for the cases.
However, residents who do not want these units operational are waiting for the final order from the court next week to get some relief.