The company has always complied with rules and regulations, says Chief Sustainability Officer Surya Valluri.
The factory in Nagda received harsh criticism from Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board in 2017.
”There are many other plants nearby and they couldn’t really establish that the pollution was because of our plant.”
But they point specifically to your plant as the source of the pollution.
”There are many other chemical plants seated there. They could not establish exactly where the pollution came from. That’s the reason we’re having a legal battle with them.”
”Yes, because they have filed a case that was not correct. Today the plant has a Zero Liquid discharge system, and still the state of the Chambal River remains the same. We have told the authorities that there are a lot of chemical trucks around the highways. People come to the Chambal River and wash their trucks there.”
Zero liquid discharge – does that mean you don’t release any water at all?
”No, we don’t release any water from the Nagda plant.”
So you are confident that the Nagda plant isn’t polluting, and never has polluted, the Chambal River?
”The plant is not polluting the river. I’m confident.”
Why don’t you have a closed loop system in place already? Carbon disulfide has been recognized as dangerous chemical for at least one hundred and fifty years.
”It is not dangerous per se, in terms of immediate threat. Most of the time, we have a completely closed loop system with an exhaust on the machines. People have worked at the plant for their whole lives. Numerous studies have been conducted on people’s health and none of them point out any problems.”
Have you measured the level of carbon disulfide in the spinning halls?
”Yes, we always do. We comply with the national regulations. That is probably the reason there was no major health damage happening to the workers who worked more than thirty, forty years with our organization.”
Contract workers, previously employed in the spinning department at the Nagda plant, say they only used cotton masks during work. How come they were not provided proper safety equipment?
”As an organization we are very health and safety conscious. We provide all the necessary tools and equipment for the employees. In some cases, however, people are not very careful and do not listen to safety instructions.”
”It’s like this: wearing a seat belt is mandatory, but how many have you seen wearing a seat belt in India? Wearing a helmet is also mandatory, but have you seen anyone wearing one while riding a bike?”
The workers say they asked for proper masks – many times – but never received any.
”That is not correct. We provide designated masks for those environments.”
In which way does the company support the villagers and the town of Nagda?
”We provide a lot of drinking water. We also do a lot of soil testing. The problem in the villages is their age old agriculture practices, they don’t really understand what the best practices are. The same soil won’t support the same crop season after season. We are educating and working closely with the villagers.”
Why do you provide them with drinking water if you haven’t polluted the river?
”Fresh drinking water has more minerals. If you depend on the groundwater or the river water, you may not get all those minerals. Therefore it’s necessary for people to have fresh drinking water.”
A lot of villagers feel that the company isn’t doing enough for them.
”Obviously. If you provide ten they want fifty, if you provide fifty they want a hundred. There’s no end to it. If we provide medical support for their animals, for example a veterinarian, they want you to buy a cow and give it to them.”
Read the Swedish version of this interview here:
”Fabriken förorenar inte floden”
Företaget har alltid följt lagar och föreskrifter, säger hållbarhetschefen Surya Valluri.