The story of proposed chemical hub is just about beginning to unfold. In a dispatch in The Statesman, July 28 we’ve a dire warning from leading scientists about ‘disastrous consequences’ of having the chemical hub in Haldia. Here is an excerpt:
In a letter written to the chief minister, the Teachers and Scientists Against Maldevelopment (TASAM) warned that “the proposed hub will effectively become an instrument for providing cheap labour and dumping ground for the toxic material due to the relaxed environmental laws of our country”.
The state government should have consulted the experts before proceeding with the proposal. “The decision taken by the government was solely an administrative one. It should have discussed the matter with researchers and scientists of this field”, said Prof. Partha Sarathi Ray, chemical technology professor at Calcutta University.
Prof. Rabindra Nath Majumdar, another professor at Calcutta University, said that the government’s decision of selecting Haldia to set up the chemical hub was wrong because it is dangerous to set up such a hub in any fertile land or even coastal area. Though the government has publicly announced that the hub would be “environment friendly” and “less polluting”, it has not provided any substantial data to support it.
How the government responds to this ‘newly found fear’ will be watched intently. It is a serious charge that cannot be shrugged off easily.
I say ‘newly found fear’ because several factors weigh heavily favoring the notion that there is a ploy at play behind this sudden concern against the chemical hub. Let’s examine some.
- We already have 2 heavyweight chemical plants in Haldia, namely Mitsubishi’s PTA plant and IOC’s refinery. So far no complaint has been heard with regard to their polluting the environment. In fact it is IOC, with an impeccable record of running the largest number of refineries in the country that is being entrusted as the main implementation agency of the proposed Haldia hub.
- As I’ve mentioned in my previous article, A mandate brings respite, the proposed chemical hub is sort of a requirement in national interest. Other than Haldia 2 more are planned in other parts of the country, and in view of the fact that this project is being directly handled by the PMO, it can be reasonably assumed that sufficient thoughts have gone behind their necessity at the center.
It will be interesting to know if the scientists’ body has protested the chemical hubs elsewhere. And if after voicing opinion publicly about Haldia hub it still does not protest the hubs anywhere else in the country, can it not be said that the body is partisan in its thinking, that it doesn’t care two hoots about the effect of chemical pollution in the rest of the country?
As far as I know, for an industrial project to happen it is necessary by law to have an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) done and necessary clearances obtained. For all these there are renowned agencies like the CSIR-controlled Nagpur-based National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) that have all the expertise to infer upon environmental viability of an industrial project.
Has the scientists’ body conferred with NEERI or any other similar institute of repute on Haldia project? If yes, let it come out with the details in public and publish in a website. Let other experts and general public scrutinize their opinion. If not then their outcry will have to be taken with a bucket of salt.
Separating wheat from the chaff is very necessary at this critical juncture of Bengal’s industrialization. As much as the government is determined to take it forward, so too is the opposition to scuttle it at any cost.
Which is why the scientists’ protest looks tinged with partisan color. But since science is nothing but knowledge of truth, let the protesting scientists openly come out with their objection in a website instead of playing it through the media.