Alembic plant in Gujarat asked to shut down

the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (gpcb) served a closure notice to a plant of Alembic Ltd in Panelav village of Panchmahal district, Gujarat, on August 25, 2006. It manufactures bulk drugs and drug intermediates. The notice was issued after it was found that the plant was environmentally hazardous and its effluent treatment plant (etp) was not functioning.

A gpcb team had visited the plant on August 2 and collected water samples from different places in the village. They were contaminated, but did not raise a really big stink. Only after a complaint of contamination in a village pond, the only source of water for cattle and domestic use, another gpcb team inspected the plant on August 14. This led to the closure notice.

The move came as a big relief for farmers in the village.Earlier, individual farmers had sent several complaints regarding water contamination to the plant authorities between June 27 and July 10.

Alembic had proposed to set up the plant in 1995. Farmers had opposed it then. Yet, operations began in 1997. The contamination has caused a decrease in crop production up to 50 per cent, say the farmers.

Vinay Puri, a farmer who is leading the agitation, had written about the contamination to the Supreme Court, Gujarat High Court, district collectorate and the gpcb. A group of farmers had also written a letter to the President of India threatening to commit suicide if the issue was not looked into. Puri welcomed the closure of the unit but demanded that the village be compensated for the heavy losses it had suffered.

Alembic officials refused to comment, saying, "We are strictly adhering to the directions laid down by the authorities.' Vadodara-based industrialist Chirayu Amin, former president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, owns Alembic.