CSE releases the study on sponge iron sector in Odisha

Sponge iron industry growing unsustainably, says latest CSE study

  • Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), New Delhi studies sponge iron industry in the country and finds large-scale environmental and social impacts and growing unrest among people in areas dominated by this industry

  • Analyses inspection reports of state pollution control boards and finds increasing and consistent non-compliance with various environmental norms 

  • In Odisha, 55 per cent of the inspection reports for the last three years show some or the other non-compliance

  • But the enforcement action is not acting as deterrence for non-compliance. The present compliance and enforcement mechanism is unable to keep a check on pollution

  • Advocates tightening of environmental norms and stringent enforcement including enhanced provision for fines, penalties and closure. 

Rourkela, January 22, 2011:

State Pollution Control Boards are failing miserably in controlling pollution from sponge iron factories across the country. This is the main finding of a study on the sponge iron industry released by the Centre for Science and Environment released in Rourkela today.

The study has documented the environmental and social impacts of 15 sponge iron clusters spread across Odisha, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. The clusters include two from Odisha – Bonai and Kuarmunda in Sundargarh district. These clusters have become the hub of protests owing to pollution from these factories destroying agricultural fields, associated impact on health and change in livelihood patterns.

The study finds high non-compliance on part of the industry with various environmental norms. In Odisha more than 50 per cent of the sponge iron factories were found to be violating the environmental norms when inspected by the Pollution Control Board. Despite this the actions taken by the board – show cause and closure notices and even closure of factories in some cases, do not have the desired effect. The study finds that repeated offense is a common practice amongst these factories.

The main environmental concern associated with the sponge iron industry is air pollution. This is largely attributed to non-installation or non-operation of pollution control equipment. According to the study, in Odisha, close to 15 per cent of the sponge iron factories are found to be running without proper air pollution control equipment. But installation of pollution control equipment does not necessarily mean operating them and meeting emission standards. In Odisha, 37 per cent of the inspection reports show abnormally high emissions from kiln and the night inspection reports show 100 per cent of the sponge iron factories bypassing pollution control equipment. These non-compliance figures will go up further since Odisha State Pollution Control Board does not monitor these factories regularly. The study shows that the board carried out stack monitoring for only half of the sponge iron factories in the state once every year.

The study finds that solid waste disposal is another concern. Most of the sponge iron factories in Odisha are not properly disposing their solid waste leading to air and water pollution and degradation of land.

The sponge iron sector is set to grow about seven times over the next two decades owing to the increasing steel demand. The steel sector will largely be driven by the sponge iron route. But our current pollution control norms are not sufficient to take care of such massive growth, says Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director of CSE. “Our Pollution Control Boards are weak and our enforcement actions too feeble to enforce compliance. In such a scenario, we need changes in the Environment Protection Act and strengthening of Pollution Control Boards to enable effective monitoring and enforcement.”

The study recommends the following:

  • Kilns with capacity less than 200 tonnes per day should be phased out and new kilns of such small capacities should not be allowed.

  • Mandatory standards for material handling, storage and transportation to be enacted.

  • New cluster based standards for sponge iron dominated areas.

  • Stricter enforcement tools and setting up of a civil administrative mechanism to impose heavy penalties

For more details, please contact Souparno Banerjee (souparno@cseindia.org / 9910864339) of The CSE Media Resource Centre.