Bhubaneswar, Sept. 30: The Orissa government has closed down a sulphuric acid manufacturing plant after a poisonous gas emission affected one lakh people in a chilling reminder of the Bhopal tragedy.
The state government has also decided to file a criminal case against the Paradip-based Oswal Chemical and Fertilisers, which owns the plant.
Environment minister Surya Patra, who visited the affected villages in Kendrapara on Sunday, said that in the intervening night of September 21 and 22, more than a lakh people in 62 villages of eight gram panchayats were affected due to the emission of toxic gases from the plant.
About 3,500 hectares of paddy crop also suffered damage while more than 4,000 fishermen are said to have lost their livelihood because effluents from the plant polluted the water of the Mahanadi and its tributary, Kharanasi.
The Orissa State Pollution Control Board will assess the damage.
If the company fails to provide compensation, Rs 20 lakh deposited with the board as security will be frozen.
The company had deposited the amount after the government closed down its plant six months ago following a pollution control board order.
The plant reopened recently after an appeal against the order before the Central Pollution Control Board.
A delegation of agriculture scientists from the Central Rice Research Institute, the Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology and the Central Institute of Integrated Pest Management will visit the affected areas.
It is expected to submit a report within 15 days.
The district collector, too, has been advised to prepare a list of the damage caused by the gas and effluent emissions.
The plant started trial production in April 1999 after obtaining the consent of the state pollution control board and clearance from the ministry of environment and forests in July 1998.
The board later closed down the plant, saying that the company had not complied with its conditions and discharged untreated wastewater to a nearby creek and the Mahanadi.