The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has ordered the closure of 45 cooperative sugar factories in Maharashtra for violating the Environmental Protection Act. This is the first time such a large number of sugar units have received closure notices. The CPCB has directed the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) to inspect and verify the closure of these units. The MPCB must also ensure that the units do not resume operations without obtaining a revocation of the closure direction. However, it may be challenging to close these units due to the political influence of their owners.
MUMBAI: In a major setback to sugar barons in the state, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has ordered closure of 45 cooperative sugar factories in Maharashtra for blatant violation of the Environmental Protection Act. Maharashtra has a total of 190 sugar units, of which 105 are in operation. The sugarcane crushing season will begin from November 1.
This is for the first time that such a large number ofsugar units have been served with closure notices.
In a letter to Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), CPCB’s Kamlesh Singh stated that it had issued closure directions to the non-complying sugar industries under section 5 of the Environmental Protection Act, on account of non-installation/non-connectivity of Online Continuous Emission/Effluent Monitoring Systems (OCEMS) or for non-compliance with the notified standards/other shortcomings observed during inspections conducted by CPCB.
Under section 5, the central government has powers to give directions, including closure, prohibition or regulation of any industry, operation or process or stoppage or regulation of power and water supply or any other service. “CPCB was expecting that the state pollution control board will ensure implementation of directions and ensure closure and ask the state electricity board for disconnection of the power supply,” said a senior official.
The CPCB has asked MPCB to inspect and verify the 45 sugar units, and report if they have closed the operation with respect to the closure direction issued by the CPCB. It is also to be ensured that sugar units shall not commence its operation during the upcoming crushing season of 2023-24 under any circumstances without obtaining revocation of closure direction from CPCB. “MPCB has been directed to submit the action taken report before November 10, 2023,” the official said. Maharashtra state cooperative sugar factories federation chairman P R Patil declined to comment on the notice. “I am not aware of such a notice. We will discuss it with our members and then decide the course of action,” said Patil.
“It is not the case that cooperative sugar factories of the Sharad Pawar faction or Congress have been targeted. Sugar factories belonging to BJP too are found in the list,” said an official.
The official said no doubt the CPCB has ordered the closure of the sugar units, but it will be difficult to close the units since all the factory owners are very powerful and politically connected.