Crime against environment: Releasing toxic waste into rivers
Most Indian industries brazenly violate the country’s fragile environment and often get away with the crime. There are a few ‘unlucky’ offenders who get caught, not because of the efficiency of the system but due to the enormity of the crime that they could not shield from the media glare. Even these criminals are confident of manoeuvring the system once the focus of media is diverted to some other issue. They quietly wriggle out of their self-created mess without paying any substantial damage to the local authorities for destroying the flora and fauna, thanks to the nefarious corporate-politician nexus.
Punjab is not an exception. This year, one night in mid-May, what at Kiri Afghana did was outrageous. Thousands of fish in the Beas perished and water got contaminated for several kilometres because of the thick brown chemically-treated slush from the unit. The damage to the environment was captured by the media. The Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) acted swiftly and found the company guilty for “environment catastrophe of a very high level”. It imposed a penalty of Rs 5 crore on Chadha Sugar Mill. The culprit, however, paid only Rs 1 crore. Meanwhile, the PPCB chief was transferred and the recovery of the balance amount is pending. Apparently, the penalty was meant to restore the ecological balance of the river system. This ecology should not be made to suffer due to lack of funds.
This is not merely about delay in recovering the balance penalty amount. It is a matter of law enforcement. The imposition of the fine and its full recovery will send the message that the law and government do not tolerate any damage to the environment. The role of Punjab’s authorities appears to be lackadaisical in the case of Chadha Sugar Mill. Laxity in prosecution and punishment in such crimes would weaken the society’s resolve to protect the environment. In fact, the government should take stricter action against the people responsible for this catastrophe, including the mill managers and the government officials entrusted with ensuring the safe disposal of industrial waste.