The six hour Kuanrmunda bandh call by, Kuanrmunda Nagarik Committee, against severe dust pollution caused by sponge iron units passed off peacefully on Wednesday. Road communication between Odisha and Jharkhand was disrupted during the bandh.

There was no untoward incident as the protestors, over 500 surrounding villages, squatted on the road. Business houses, public institutions like banks and government offices remained closed. However, the local schools were not included in the bandh so it was business as usual for them. Trucks and buses, were not allowed to ply.

Following this large numbers of trucks remained stranded on the road till the bandh was completed. OIC Kuanrmunda PS Manoj Nayak, said, “it was peaceful and actually the protestors were not allowing those trucks going to the polluting plants else traffic was normal.”

Meanwhile, convener of KNC Rajesh Kerketta, rued the fact that, “despite so many persons coming on the road there was no sign of anyone from the administration trying to assess the problem or talk to the villagers.” He explained, “our demonstration was against the pollution and we are not against industrialisation.”

He informed that, “we will wait for 15 days and then call a 24 hour bandh if steps are not initiated to resolve the problem”. They were protesting against the alleged rampant dust pollution arising out of the six sponge iron units, which was making their lives miserable.

Black dust emanating from the units is causing severe environmental and health problems locals claimed. For anyone visiting the place may find the presence of the dust settling on the leaves, on the walls, even in the water kept in utensils inside homes. GS Debta a local said, “just drive without helmet and then clean your face and touch your hairs on head and then you will know what we are facing.”

Surprisingly, the protestors found a strong support in KK Poddar, the President of Rourkela Chamber of Commerce and Industries. Poddar came down heavily both on the government and the unit owners. He said, “both the pollution control board and those unit owners are equally responsible for the problem.”

He assured that in this matter he stands with the agitating population. Meanwhile, Regional Officer of SPCB here Hemendra Nayak, informed that action has been initiated. “I have already directed to close the Swastiik Ispat Limited,” he informed.

Inspection teams have already visited the other units in the area like Adhunik Metaliks, Sakamabari, Shri Ganesh Metaliks and Khedria, said Nayak. And closure notice would be served soon on Sakambari and Kedria. Most of these, it is alleged, are not using their power consuming dust arresters or the electro static precipitator (ESP).

Rajesh Bagaria, promoter of Swastik Iron said, “I have been asked to take care of my ESP and within a week I am going to do that.” But, he denied that he was not asked to close down the unit. When asked the allegation that he was not using his ESP was baseless. “If the ESP is stopped for two hours then it becomes difficult to restart and it is very expensive,” he explained.