Kerala river-polluting firms still sitting pretty

Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Oct 31 2005, 07:06am hrs
The 193 river-polluting companies in Kerala, hauled up last year by the Supreme Court monitoring committee on Hazardous wastes and hazardous chemicals, are in no mood to adhere to the committees deadline. After missing the May 2004 deadline, the committee had allowed them another six-months over-stretch to get their act together. But all that is ready on the assured treatment, storage and disposal facility (TSDF) is a special purpose vehicle (SPV) floated by Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation (KSIDC).

In principle, all firms are ready for TSDF, but even industrial giants, red on the pollution score, seem to be looking the other way when it comes to forking out money for the facility. The 60-crore project by the SPV, Kerala Enviro Infrastructure, is yet to cobble up enough working capital from its stakeholder firms. About 66 companies together have mopped up only Rs 85 lakh, sources told FE.

Big firms like Kochi Refineries, KMML and Binani Zinc, have thrown in Rs 5 lakh each, while some small units have pitched in about Rs 25,000 each. For the Rs 60-crore TSDF project to take off, in the initial stage, it would need to bridge a critical gap of at least Rs 2 crore, apart from KSIDCs share of Rs 1 crore. On its part, the Centre is willing to pay Rs 2 crore subsidy if the state puts in as much. But neither can be mobilised in the start-up stage.

Meanwhile, Kerala government agencies, the state pollution control board and KSIDC, are distracted after a breakthrough in land dispute for TSDF. Getting land for TSDF is in progress, said G Rajmohan, chairman, state pollution control board. Whereas FACTthe owner of the identified 50 acre for TSDFhad sought Rs 12 crore, the government was able to haggle and bring it down to Rs 6.25 crore, with 50% payment as FACTs share in Kerala Enviro Infrastructure.

We are told the work on TSDF will start next month, State Pollution Control Board member secretary, SD Jayaprakash, said. A KSIDC spokesman confirmed that civil work cannot start next month. Despite the price consensus, KSIDC is falling Rs 2 crore short for the land. However, paperwork is on fast track, he said. Crisil has been assigned to identify TSDF operators and tenders will be floated in a month or two.

Some of the bigger players among the 193 polluting firms, however, have stayed completely out of SPV ambit. They opted out by pleading arrangements of their own land. Many have set up assorted facilities, but none has complied with the industrial incinerator norm.