Agra's leather shoe units told to check pollution

After hundreds of petha (sweetmeat) units were forced to shut down in Agra last fortnight, Uttar Pradesh's pollution control body has now shifted its focus to pollution causing leather shoe units here.

The Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board has issued notice to 74 pollution causing leather shoe units, many of them big export houses.

Some of the units have been told to apply for the department's consent and many were told to shift outside the city limits.

The board's regional officer B.B. Awasthy told IANS Thursday: "Action has been taken, notices issued, now the units are responding and applying for consent. They are also arranging for management of leather cutting waste. Let's see."

Agra is a major leather shoe manufacturing hub with more than two lakh people employed in hundreds of small and big units.

The board has asked District Industries Centre not to give no objection certificates to the units that have not responded to the notices.

The district magistrate and the divisional commissioner have also been informed, said board officials.

In a writ petition filed in 2003 by Mithilesh Jain, the Allahabad High Court directed the authorities to take action against the shoe-making units in the residential areas.

The union ministry of forests and environment has also restricted industrial activities in the urban residential areas, in accordance with the Air and Water Pollution Act of 1974.

The shoe-making units, however, claim that their activities are not causing pollution and the bigger units have already shifted to industrial areas.

Pooran Dawar, a leading exporter, said the smaller units will be adversely affected and many will lose their jobs. The city's economy would be badly hit by the move.

Iron foundries and glass manufacturing units in Agra were shut down or forced to shift outside the eco-sensitive Taj Trapezium Zone in 1996 by the Supreme Court following a petition filed by M.C. Mehta on the harmful effects of pollution on the famed Taj Mahal.

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