A senior officer of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) was at the receiving end when angry residents of Kelwe, 90km from Mumbai, poured bottles of polluted water on him.
MPCB’s Tarapur regional Officer R Bandappa was visiting the Paaneri river at Kelwe, following protests by locals that untreated effluents were being discharged into it by errant chemical units in Palghar and nearby areas, when the incident happened.
“I had come to the spot to collect water samples when I was greeted by an irate mob. They were alleging that MPCB was not taking any action against the errant chemical units,” said Bandappa.
While Bandappa was trying to pacify the mob, some unidentified persons opened a few bottles containing the “polluted” water and emptied their contents on him. Bandappa tried rushing to his car but the locals prevented him from doing so, said an eyewitness.
A few MPCB officers who were accompanying Bandappa contacted API Ajay Sindkar of the Satpati police station, who arrived at the spot immediately. “We managed to disperse the crowd and took Bandappa to the police station so as to prevent further problems,” said API Sindkar.
The MPCB Tarapur would give a statement to the police on Monday as Bandappa was in a state of shock, said a police officer.
Denying allegations that the anti-pollution body was going soft on the errant chemical units, an MPCB official said they had taken action against three units in the Dewan and Sons Industrial estate on October 12. Action was taken after they found that some of the effluent treatment plants were out of order and the units were directly discharging untreated effluents into the Paaneri river.
Countering the MPCB claim, farmer Neelkant Raut said they gheraoed Bandappa as MPCB never acted on the complaints of the locals. The fact that MPCB only took water samples and never acted upon the test findings sparked suspicion among the locals that the anti-pollution body was hand-in-glove with the errant units, he added.