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The Proposition of a Lawyer

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Author: Manav Kothary, first year law student at the United World School of Law, Karnavati University

The Case of Dying Fish

Zuari Agrochemicals was a Birla group company that set up a fertilizer plant in the ecologically sensitive coast of Goa in the early 1970s. At that time, India was grappling with the problem of acute shortage of fertilizers, affecting food production. Import was also difficult due to the shortage of foreign exchange. Hence the fertilizer plant set up served a vital national need.
The plant went into production in June 1973. Its effluents were discharged into the sea at a distance from the coast. In September 1973, it was reported that the incidence of dead fish from the sea in the vicinity of the discharge from the plant was higher than usual. The company claimed that its effluents were within the norms for pollution set by the government and that it had obtained collaboration for the design and construction of the plant from a reputed Japanese firm.
An increase in the incidence of dead fish could have been due to many reasons, including natural oceanic phenomena. Different committees set up by the government to go into the problem posed by Zuari came up with different results. Soon after the dead fish problem, the company faced a problem on another front. Its ammonia effluents were discharged into a reservoir and, in December 1974, the villages around the reservoir and surrounding the factory allege that there was seepage from these tanks resulting in damage to the soil, to the crops, and their drinking water sources.
The company again denied that it had anything to do with the problem, but it offered to assist the villagers with drinking water. However, the protests by the villagers continued, alleging withering of crops due to ammonia contamination. They wanted nothing short of the closure of the plant. There were better ways to control pollution more effectively, but these involved the installation of additional equipment that was quite expensive. The cost of the fertilizers produced would increase, imposing a general cost on the economy.

Source: ‘The Case of the Dying Fish’, Case #BP 143, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmadabad, Gujarat.

A penny of a Lawyer’s thought:

We believe, nature is not a gift to humans that can be manipulated on demand. Nature itself has serious implications affecting different organisms.
The fact that the year 1973 assumes a higher level of dead fishes than usual propels us to the culpability of nature also. However, if although, it could be the mistake of analysis and norms of the government. The fact that the first-ever plant was installed, it will have some implication. We are avoir le cafard, for the loss, but we have an expertise in fertilization, not on environmentalism. To ensure minimal effects we are working in close consonance with the revised government guidelines.
Earth took donkey’s years to be a different kettle of fish. We shall also change but in the process of change, any unintentional mishap has to be disregarded.
We have taken further steps restricting ourselves to a minimum quantity of production on a per-day basis.
However, we prefer dumplings instead of flowers, yet we are importing the latest version of pollution control machines and veterans to mentor us.
As far as potable water crisis is concerned we have dedicated personnel and tanks, which can help to provide fresh drinking water 27X7 throughout the village. As corporate, social responsibility is also one of our prime concerns. We have given a pipeline project to XYZ co. at our own cost to help our people with every time tap water facility.
No one can deny that our country needed and still needs this first-ever firm and relocate this firm to a different location will be nothing more than a fool’s errand, and our country will never be glad to see the back of this plant. The near-by villagers are also getting employment and if we are to close the factory, not just we but the people and ultimately this country have to pay for it.
We shall expect cooperation. At the end of the day, this is government-sanctioned-legally-established-for-profit-firm; we cannot ride an elephant to catch a grasshopper.
We refrain from gasconading rather we shall prove our Gallus soon. Just as Earth, we need a bit of time and then bob’s your uncle.

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