The dialogue on sponge iron industry organised in Kolkata, West Bengal on February 11, 2011 by the Centre for Science and Evnironment (CSE) saw participation from affected people, NGOs, media, industry and academicians.
The dialogue started with a presentation from Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director General (CSE) explaining CSE's sponge iron study, its results and recommendations. The West Bengal Iron and Steel Manufacturers Welfare Association's Convener, S Bhattacharjee agreed with most of the findings of the CSE study. But he added, "Every time there is a power failure, a lot of pollution escapes the plant, we have tried to explain to the communities that there are times its not within the power of the plant to stop such instances but everything in vain." He recognised that most of these sponge iron factories are coming up in virgin areas and hence even little bit of pollution becomes a big problem. This has led to a number of complaints with the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB) and hence the dismal compliance record. "We have a problem with the government for not providing us water, roads, electricity supply and other basic amenities," Bhattacharjee said. He informed that the industry is making huge losses and support from the governments is needed to keep it viable.
Dr. Arun Das, representative of the West Bengal Directorate of Factories pointed out, "Why is the company operational if it is not viable." He went on to add that housekeeping is extremely poor in sponge iron factories and health impact is huge and serious. He recommended strengthening of research with NGO initiative. This was followed by affected people from - Bankura, Jhargram and Purulia, narrating their experiences. Academician Shubhashish Mukherjee, Telegraph journalist Jayanta Basu, Naba Dutta of Nagarik Mancha, scientist Pawan Mukherjee and Dr.Sujoy Basu were among some of the prominent people who presented their views on the sponge iron industry in the state.
The event was widely covered by the media: