Beas pollution: Punjab imposes Rs 5 crore penalty on erring mill

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Chandigarh, May 24 (IANS) Facing opposition flak over discharge of molasses in the Beas river that led to the death of a large number of marine life, the Punjab government on Thursday imposed a penalty of Rs 5 crore on the erring Chadha Sugar Mill.

The government also said that the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PFCB) had recommended initiation of criminal action against mill officials concerned under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.

The discharge of molasses into the Beas had also contaminated water downstream.

“It has been decided that the mill, responsible for an environment catastrophe of a very high level, shall remain sealed as per the directions of May 17. The industry will not be allowed to restart any process unless all necessary pollution control measures are taken, as per the directive of PPCB, which submitted its report to the Chief Minister on Thursday,” a spokesman for the Chief Minister said.

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The PPCB report requires the sugar mill to take fresh consent to operate under Section 25/26 of the Act, the spokesman said.

Directing the authorities concerned for necessary action against the mill as per the recommendations and decisions of the PPCB, the Chief Minister also constituted a high-powered committee led by Environment Minister O.P. Soni to suggest steps for cleaning of state’s rivers.

PPCB Chairman Kahan Singh Pannu apprised the Chief Minister about the punitive action taking against Chadha Sugar Mill on the principle of “polluter pays”.

The Chairman said that the mill had not only violated the Act of 1974 but also the East Punjab Molasses (Control) Act, 1948 and the Factories Act, 1948.

The arrangements for storage of molasses were neither approved by the Excise Commissioner nor made as per the requirements of the Molasses Act, the spokesman said.

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The Congress government drew flak from opposition Shiromani Akali Dal and Aam Aadmi Party for not taking action against owners of Chadha Sugar Mill in Kirri Afghana village in Gurdaspur district.

After remaining silent for a week on the incident, Amarinder Singh on Wednesday warned against laxity in dumping of molasses into the river or any leniency.

He directed agencies concerned “to vigorously pursue legal and penal action against the offenders”.

The mill owners are considered close to the Chief Minister and other Congress leaders in Punjab.

SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal had accused the government of shielding the mill owners as they belong to the family of Paramjit Singh Sarna, who is the “religious adviser” to the Chief Minister.

–IANS

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