Keonjhar: Days after Orissa Post carried a report about the operation of an illegal stone crusher unit set up by a construction agency at Khantaghar under Ghatagaon tehsil in Keonjhar district, the Forest, Environment and Climate Change department has initiated steps to close it. It has written to the Energy department to snap power supply to the unit. Earlier, the Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) had issued it a notice for polluting the environment.
Reports said, following a directive from DFO Dhanraj HD, Ghatagaon ranger Prabhat Kumar Kuanr issued a letter (No. 624) Monday to the engineer of the Energy department in Anandapur to cut power supply to the unit.
The Forest, Environment and Climate Change department had September 22 issued a notice to the managing director of the unit, Ankush Agrawal and ordered for its closure. Locals, however, alleged that the unit continues to be operational despite the order.
Dhanraj said that wildlife in the area is being affected by operations of the illegal stone crushing unit. Pollution due to it is also affecting the health of local residents.
“Without taking proper permission of the Forest, Environment and Climate Change department, the stone crusher unit has been operating. The unit has been flouting norms related to conservation of wildlife, forest and environment,” Dhanraj informed.
The State Environment Impact Assessment Authority (SEIAA) has laid guidelines that stone crushing units will not function within the limits of a lease area of a stone quarry, but this norm has been openly flouted in this case. The unit is operating in close proximity of the stone mine, sources said.
Local people had earlier sought to know how the Revenue department and the OSPCB kept their eyes closed to such blatant violation of anti-pollution norms. They had urged the administration to take steps against the unit.
Sources said, a stone quarry has been leased out to a construction agency at Khajurijuani near Khantaghar to meet the raw material requirement for the ongoing expansion of NH-20. The stone crushing unit has been operating for some years within the lease area without obtaining the proper clearance certificate from authorities concerned.
Locals alleged that the Revenue officials are also not measuring the quantity of stone being extracted from the mine and the amount that is being crushed on a daily basis. “Due to excess stone mining and crushing, the state government is incurring huge losses in revenue. The administration should look into these aspects,” they said.
Former MLA Subarna Nayak has demanded the registration of a criminal case against the unit and its owners for recovery of revenues and for polluting the environment.