Cold furnaces

Cold furnaces to save mangoes from pollution, the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (wbpcb) has directed brick kilns located within 1.6 kilometre radius of mango orchards to stop work for four months of a year. The order has been issued in compliance with the Supreme Court (sc) and Calcutta High Court (hc) orders. The February to May limited ban on nearly 150 kilns will coincide with the period of mango fruition, flowering and development. The move will hit the kilns hard because they already don't function for four months during the rainy season and the ban will increase their non-operational period to eight months of a year.

"The board took the decision in December 2004. Mango growers of Hooghly and North 24-Parganas had earlier lodged complaints with the state and central pollution control boards, following which an inquiry was conducted,' says Biswajit Mukherjee, senior law officer, wbpcb. The wbpcb issued the direction after a meeting with Bengal Brickfield Owners Association (bboa) on December 20, 2004. The bboa says kilns of Maldah and Hooghli districts will be the worst hit.

Seeds of the dispute were planted in 2000 when mango growers of Barbaria village in North 24-Parganas district, famous for Himsagar variety of mangoes, filed a writ petition in the hc seeking a direction to the pollution control board to stop the damage caused by brick kilns. The hc directed the wbpcb to check pollution emission from the kilns and consult an expert of Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya in the matter. It also sought a report from an expert team of the state government on the effect of smoke and fumes on mango plants. The team's report confirmed the damage caused to mangoes by kiln fumes. "The characteristic development/formation of etiolated and blackened lesions at the distal end of the mango fruits sharply indicates a physiological disorder named black tip of mango (emphasis in the original),' it said (see box : Black tip). On the team's advice, the hc directed the wbpcb to issue the limited ban order. Brick kiln owners challenged the hc verdict in the sc, but the sc upheld the hc decision.

The battle is clearly not over. Following the wbpcb's order, bboa president Harish Kumar Rohra said: "We have invited the team of experts to take the sample again and will take the case to the sc after the sampling is redone.'

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