Pollution caused by factories in and around Paradip has become a major cause of concern for betel vine growers in villages of Kujang and Erasama blocks. The adverse effect related complaints has prompted the district level officers of the pollution control board to inspect and collect samples of betel leaves for necessary tests to find out the reasons for betel leaf getting burnt and crumpled.
In fact the betel vine growers of the region are known to produce the best variety which is exported to different parts of the country like West Bengal, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Delhi.
It is a money spinner for the villagers. But since 1999 super cyclone when a vast area of betel vines were destroyed, the villagers have been struggling. The demolition of vines for the Posco steel project had also come as a major blow to growers and now the pollution has damaged areas where it is still a major crop.
Villagers complain that emission of poisonous gas from Paradip based factories , the newly set up refinery etc is causing the damage. The chemicals are burning the betel leaf, allege people of Dhinkia, Patana, Gobindpur, Nuagaon, Gadkujang, Trilochanpur and other areas.
Abhimanyu Samal, a farmer of Mahal under Kujang block said normally during winter , the betel leaves develop black spots due to fog, but nowadays the leaves are getting burnt. This is something new. It may be due to chemical reactions.
He said some of the villagers had also complained of burning sensation in the eyes.
"Our vines were saved from the Posco project and it was exempted from the land acquisition", said a vine owner at Dhinkia while regretting that the leaves are damaged due to pollution.
Senior Scientist, Odisha State Pollution Control Board, Prasant Kumar Kar, said "After getting allegation, one expert team led by Pramod Kumar Behera, deputy environmental engineer, visited the affected villages yesterday and has collected samples from affected betel leaves to send it to the lab in Bhubaneswer to know the cause of the damage".
Meanwhile, officials of the IOCL refinery project denied that emissions from the plant had caused any damage. A mobile van has been deployed to monitor that ambient air pollution data in nearby villages.
During monitoring of air quality in and around refinery, it has been observed that Paradip refinery has not put any additional pollution load to the environment. The major air pollutants SOX and NOX are well within the stipulated norms and no detrimental increase has been observed during construction and even during commissioning of the refinery.