Times of India – Protest against reopening of Azhikkal ship-breaking unit

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8 March 2015 - KANNUR: The controversial ship breaking unit of the Steel Industrials Kerala Ltd (SILK) in Azhikkal here, resumed operations after the district administration withdrew the closure order. The unit was shut down following the closure memo issued by district collector in July 2014 on the basis of the charges of environmental pollution and health hazards.

But the action committee which earlier launched a campaign against the unit said they would resume the agitation and will also take legal measures, as the first step of which they have served a legal notice on district collector P Bala Kiran.

While the ship breaking unit management claimed that it resumed operations after getting clearance from the collector, the action committee alleged foul play.

“We got establishment licence from the pollution control board (PCB) and clearance from the district medical officer, following which the collector withdrew the earlier closure memo on Thursday. We have now resumed work,” said SILK unit manager P Manoharan. The work of ship breaking will resume in two days.

Though district collector P Balakiran agreed he had withdrawn the closure memo, he said they have been asked to get licence from Azhikode panchayat. He also said he got the notice served by the action committee, and a formal reply would be given in the coming days.

However, Azhikkode panchayat secretary Usha P P said the panchayat has not given licence to the unit and they have not received any information about its reopening so far.

The collector withdrew the order owing to ignorance about licensing procedure for such a unit, alleged action committee chairman M K Manoharan.

“Before giving clearance, the PCB should study it thoroughly and hold public hearing. But, it did not happen here. Further, if a proper study and environmental impact assessment are conducted, no one can give licence to such a polluting unit,” he said. In this backdrop, the action committee is planning to intensify the agitation, which would be finalized in the next two days.

“We campaigned against the ship breaking unit because of the clear evidence about environmental and health hazards, but the SILK management, which has political clout, is breaking the norms for financial interests and we will fight this legally as well as using other means,” he said.

Meanwhile, environmental activist and lawyer Hareesh Vasudevan, who served the legal notice to the district collector on behalf of the action committee, said the unit cannot function in the present condition under the Environment (Protection) Act.

“The functioning of the unit, that too without any steps for hazardous waste management, is a clear violation of the Environment (Protection) Act. They cannot function without the clearance from the ministry of environment,” he said

He also alleged that there was a bigger racket involved in the issue and huge level of foul play is involved in it.