FDA to Probe Whether Mahul Salt Pans are Contaminated with Industrial Waste

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Maharashtra said they are investigating a complaint that salt pans in Mahul are being contaminated by the discharge from an oil refinery in the vicinity.
A citizens’ group, Watchdog Foundation, has filed a complaint that a branch of the Thane Creek, which brings sea water into the salt pans, has industrial wastes flowing in it. FDA assistant commissioner DK Sawant told HT that he has directed his officers to collect samples of salt from the pans for investigation.
“As per FDA protocol and enforcement authority, we can test samples only from packaged products of salt to analyse contamination levels. Since there are no processing units at the site, it is very difficult to identify any contamination. We are trying to find out whether there any local units in this area,” said Ashwini Ranjane, assistant commissioner (east zone), FDA. “Investigations are underway since it can be a potential health hazard. If untreated effluents are being released, it is a violation and action will be taken.”
Godfrey Pimenta, trustee, Watchdog Foundation, said that regular consumption of salt that has low levels of chemical contamination could create health risks for consumers in the long run. “The pollutants from the said discharge gets mixed with sea water which is reaching the salt pans and thus there is a heavy risk that the salt produced at Mahul may be contaminated.”
Salt pans are inter tidal areas governed by Coastal Regulation Zone rules, and fall under the primary category (CRZ-I). These areas, however, are not defined as wetlands after the union environment ministry notified the Wetland (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017.
Officials from the deputy salt commissioner’s office in Mumbai said they were not aware about the issue and refrained from commenting.
Mumbai currently has 2,177 hectares of salt pans. Of this, 1,379 hectare is under CRZ where no construction activity is allowed, and 721.24 hectare falls outside natural areas and is developable. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is allocating 130 hectares of salt pan land for affordable housing under its development plan.