You could see it from the Dwarka-Khambaliya National Highway. Mountains of crushed aluminum-rich ore, uncovered. Chimneys spewing thick, dirty-looking smoke.
Everything within half a kilometer of the bauxite refinery was covered with a layer of toxic reddish dust — a school, government hospital, farmlands, and the village of Harshadpur included.
Biren Singh’s* house, a modest concrete structure, was located 100 meters from the refinery’s low perimeter walls. “We faced a lot of trouble because of the dust,” says the farmer and father of two. “It was difficult to breathe properly. [It] spoiled our crops; the dust would sit on the flowering crops and would stunt their growth. …We would not even hang our clothes to dry because within a few hours they’d be laden with dust.”
Nearly every household in Harshadpur was impacted. They had lived, worked, and schooled amongst the toxic dust for over 40 years.
Community members repeatedly raised their concerns with authorities, but to no avail. “We had done so much: gone to the District Collector, spoke to the company directly, approached the gram panchayat [village council] but we never got any response,” recalls Biren. “Sometimes I used to think that this problem would never go away.”
That mindset shifted when a friend of Biren’s from another village referred him to a community paralegal working with the CPR-Namati Environmental Justice program. The two connected and the paralegal explained to Biren that industrial units like the bauxite plant are legally obliged to adhere to certain environmental safeguards. Further, if anyone believed a company was not complying with these rules, there were regulatory institutions they could approach.
“I got angrier after knowing that this was all illegal,” says Biren. “But I was also a little hopeful because I knew when one uses a legal route one can get justice.”
In the weeks that followed, Biren and the paralegal identified, secured, and read through documents to find a legal hook. They found it in the company’s Consent to Operate. The letter, issued by the Regional Pollution Control Board (PCB), clearly stated that the company had to abide by the Air Prevention and Control of Pollution Act of 1981.
The pair proceeded to take photos showing how the unit did not comply with numerous clauses in the Act and submitted their evidence, along with a letter of complaint, to the Regional Pollution Control Board. After a number of follow-up letters and visits, the board issued a “show-cause notice” requiring the company to explain their lack of compliance.
The company did not respond, and the PCB took no further action.
Biren determined that they needed to apply more pressure. He gathered approximately 30 affected community members and together they wrote a letter — and they kept writing letters until finally, the PCB took action.
But despite repeated site visits by the PCB, the pollution continued unabated. Under continued pressure from the community members, the PCB eventually issued the company with a closure notice. Five days later it was inexplicably revoked.
Biren was undeterred. “I did not think of giving up, because after using the legal route at least the institutions and the company had started to respond to our concerns. That was a huge change from our past experience. So I knew that even if this process is slow, this is what will get me and my community some relief.”
The community representatives reconvened to rethink their strategy. With the paralegal’s support, they read the laws again and identified a different approach. Under Gujarat’s State Pollution Control Boards Rules, the “vigilance committee” could be invoked in emergency situations where timely inspection is critical to resolve a problem of pollution.
Their new strategy worked: within two months of receiving the community’s letter, the committee had conducted site visits and found the company to be in gross violation of the law. The Regional PCB issued a “direction of action and closure notice” shortly thereafter.
This time, the company complied. It shut down the refinery for a month while it implemented the required safeguards, including building higher perimeter walls and fixing the air filtration systems on their chimneys.
The community was thrilled. The dust that infected their lungs, hung on their crops, and invaded their homes was a fraction of what it used to be. But having long thought that it was their fate to live amidst the toxic dust, they remained cautious. Biren and the other community representatives continued to monitor the plant and follow up with the regulatory institutions to ensure the problem did not resurface. Within six months, the company announced that it would be moving the unit from the residential area to a nearby industrial complex.
It was a huge relief to the residents of Harshadpur but, as Biren says, their joy was not in reaction to the outcome alone. “This process helped us get a proper channel to voice our concerns. Earlier we did not know who to share our miseries with, but now we know the officials who are responsible to work for us. God forbid, if this issue reoccurs, I know exactly where to go and who to write to about my problem.”
*name changed to protect identity
Last updated January 30, 2013.
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Last updated: May 25, 2018
This Policy describes our privacy practices and sets out your obligations and ours with respect to your use of the Site and the Forum. This Policy applies only to the Site and the Forum and does not necessarily apply to our offline collection of information.
Namati may collect and retain two types of information about Site and Forum visitors: (i) personal information that individual visitors voluntarily provide when interacting on the Site or Forum or on certain other occasions (such as via forms or in emails); and (ii) tracking data, which is data that is automatically collected from every Site and Forum visitor as they use and browse the site.
We may, from time to time, store and archive the information you submit to or through the Site and Forum. The information that we gather may include your name, title, and address, telephone number, email address, credit card number or other elements of personal information. In addition, if you contact us, we may keep a record of your correspondence, including any information contained therein.
You may decline to provide any personal information, but please realize that you thereby may be unable to register or to participate in activities or services offered on the Site and/or Forum.
In addition to the information you submit to or through the Site and Forum, we also may collect and store data from and about you gathered in the course of your use of the Site and Forum. We call this “tracking data.”
Such tracking data may include, but is not limited to, information regarding the number and frequency of visits to the Site and Forum, the websites that you access before and after you visit the Site and Forum, the software and operating system used to access the Site and Forum, and your IP address and Internet service provider.
Our use of your Information involves various forms of communication with you, including:
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We retain the right to transfer or assign all information pursuant to a merger, purchase or other transaction relating to Namati or our assets.
The current list of third-party service providers we use include:
Personal information you submit via your member account, other than information provided or content posted by you to public areas of the Site as described below, is deleted from Namati’s records following the deletion of your account. However, such information may continue to be retained by third-party service providers to which it has been disclosed for one of the reasons listed above.
Your Information is stored on Digital Ocean servers in New York, USA.
We take reasonable precautions to protect your information from loss, misuse or alteration. You should recognize, however, that there is no such thing as “perfect security” on the Internet, and we cannot guarantee the security of your information. In addition, because Internet communications are unsecure, it is also possible that the information you supply to us or your access of any information via the Site will be intercepted during transmission. We are not liable for any breach of our systems or interception of our transmission, and we hereby fully disclaim, to the fullest extent possible under law, any liability associated with any claim relating to a breach of security, data or information.
You should be aware that any information provided or content posted by you to public areas of the Site, including but not limited to interactions on the Site and information posted to the Member Directory (via your profile), the Tools Database and the Forum, may be read, collected or used by other visitors of the Site, who may not need to log in as a member to view the information. Namati is not responsible for the third-party use of any information provided in such manner. By participating in the use of the Site’s interactive features, you consent to Namati’s use or disclosure of any content that you submit. For more information on posting content, please see our Terms.
The Forum uses data about your posts and other activity to make automated decisions about whether your posts are spam.
The Forum may also use data about your posts and activity to award you badges and calculate a trust level for your account. Your trust level may affect how you can participate in the Forum, such as whether you can upload images, as well as give you access to moderation and management powers in the Forum. Your trust level, therefore, reflects Forum administrators’ confidence in you, and their willingness to delegate community management functions, like moderation.
From time to time, we may email users of the Site or the Forum information regarding important developments affecting Namati and/or the Global Legal Empowerment Network. We may also email users on occasion regarding the Site or the Forum. Such emails may be sent to users of the Site or Forum even if they have not requested to receive any communication from us.
You may choose to unsubscribe from future emails by using the unsubscribe link included in all mass email correspondence from Namati and the Global Legal Empowerment Network.
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Because Namati is concerned about the privacy protection of children who access the Internet, we comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Accordingly, the Site and Forum are not intended for use by anyone under the age of 13, and we do not knowingly collect information from anyone under 13 years of age without the consent of a parent or guardian.
We reserve the right to disclose any information to comply with any law, regulation, decree, judgment, order, subpoena or any other governmental order (“Order”) without any obligation to contest or verify the accuracy of such Order.
This Policy will be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of the State of New York, without regard to any principles of conflicts of law. You agree that any action at law or in equity that arises out of or relates to any use of the Site will be filed only in the state or federal courts located in New York County, and you hereby consent and submit to the personal jurisdiction of such courts for the purposes of litigating any such action.
The section titles in this Policy are for convenience only and have no legal or contractual effect.
The Site, the Forum, and any third party services they use, may be subject to additional terms and conditions regarding privacy and use of information. Your use of the Site and the Forum is subject to those terms and conditions, which are incorporated into this Policy by reference. In the event of an inconsistency between this Policy and any additional posted conditions, the provisions of the additional conditions shall control.
We may need to change the Policy from time to time in order to address new issues and to reflect changes on the Site or in the law. We reserve the right to revise or make any changes to the Policy, and your continued use of the Site subsequent to any changes to this Policy will mean that you agree to and accept such changes. You can tell if the Policy has been updated by checking the last revised date posted on the top of this page.
You can also access, remove, update or correct your information, and raise any questions or concerns regarding the Site or the Policy, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or mailing:
Namati Data Protection Officer
1616 P Street NW, Suite 101
Washington, DC 20036, USA
If you live in a country which has adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (EU; 2016/679), you have a right to lodge a complaint with your relevant supervisory authority about this policy and its application.
The Policy was updated in May 2018 to comply with the General Data Protection Regulations.