Chronology of despair

  • 29/04/1996

1987 0 P Agarwal buys and illegally acquires land adjoining Bichhri village and sets up a chain of chemical factories on it

September 1988 The villagers launch an agitation and write letters to the President, the Prime Minister, the state chief minister and the Rajasthan Pollution Control Board (RPCB)

September-October 1989 RPCB tells the units to install treatment plants within six months or face closure; after the respondents fail to appear in the court three times in succession, the factories are ordered closed till the plants are set up

November 1988 The district magistrate (DM) visits the plants and the affected villages and legal proceedings are initiated against the units under Section 133 (public complaint against a disturbing industrial unit) of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPQ the villagers continue their agitation; the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) gets into action to study the degree of pollution

January 3, 1989 DM orders the closure of the factory under CrPC I" (disrupting public tranquility) after Agarwal repeatedly ignores orders to clean up

May 1989 Roorkee University conducts environ- mental impact studies at the behest of CSE; environmental engineer G D Agarwal joins the efforts, and persuades the Hindustan Zinc Ltd unit to send water tankers to the village

June 1989 Agarwal removes some of the sludge, hiring labourers to load it onto trucks with their bare hands

October 1989 A public interest litigation is filed in the Supreme Court (SC) by the Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action. The petition appeals to the Court to direct authorities to provide clean drinking 'Water to affected villagers (not done till date), arrest the pollution from spreading, order medical and veterinary teams to undertake studies (not done till date), issue closure orders (done after seven years), issue orders to respondents for compensating the villagers (not done till date), etc

December 1989 The SC orders the director of the Nagpur- based National Environmental Engineering Research Institute to conduct a study and report to the Court within a month of receipt of the order

January 1990 SC forced NEERI to take up impact assessment

May 1990 A study by the Roorkee University, funded and published by CSE, points out that the ground water contours in the region sloped down from the Silver Chemicals site polluting at least 90 wells en route

February 13 1996 Court comprising of Justices B P Jeevan Reddy and B N Kirpal orders the seizure of five "rogue industries" owned by 0 P Agarwal, whose H-acid units were responsible for polluting the aquifer around the village.