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A chemical catastrophe looms large

Dec. 1, 2008
HERALD REPORTER
Goa Herald

PANJIM, DEC 1 (2008): The Gawada, Kunbi, Velip & Dhangar (GAKUVED) Federation and the Corlim Village Panchayat fear a tragedy like Bhopal awaits villages surrounding the Syngenta company in the Corlim Industrial Estate which they allege is handling hazardous chemicals.

A lab test report from United States-based Columbia Analytical Services Inc inferred that a total of seven chemicals were found in the air in the area. The report states that three out of seven chemicals were found in levels above the safe levels prescribed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency or any other statutory regulations prescribed in the United States.

It further states that out of the seven chemicals found six of them target the central nervous system and eyes, five of these target the respiratory system and skin, three target the kidneys and one targets the peripheral nervous system, cardiovascular system, reproductive system, gastrointestinal system and blood.

The report says that the sample for the test was taken in Zorcatar at about 200 metres north from the Syngenta factory and about 50 metres from the Cumbharjua canal. At the time, there was a sweet, pungent, mint-like odour that caused throat irritation and heaviness in the head, it states further.

Addressing a press conference on Monday, GAKUVED President Durgadas Gaonkar, who resides close to the factory, said the sample was taken by a Chennai-based non governmental organization Community Environment Monitoring and sent to the US for testing.

Gaonkar said their fears had been confirmed because some people have complained of irritation in the eyes and other minor problems that could be on account of these chemicals. There could be a bigger underlying danger to the surrounding areas if there was a gas leak from the factory, he stated.

He claimed that the company had got permission from the Central Ministry on October 30, 2008, for production of five more hazardous chemicals, some of which were banned in the US and European countries.

He said on February 29, 2008 at a public hearing where Syngenta's officials, environmentalists and social activists were present villagers opposed the company's handling of dangerous chemicals. The officials had no answer when they were throw light on their disaster management plan to handle any dangerous eventuality, he stated.

Activist Sebastian Fernandes maintained that at the February 29 public hearing the Syngenta officials were on record to state that the company wasn't manufacturing monocrotophos, a pesticide which has been derecognized by the US. He claimed the company was indeed churning out the pesticide every year.

Villagers of Corlim in association with GAKUVED and Corlim Village Panchayat would now highlight the various illegalities perpetrated by the company in a peaceful rally on December 3 at Corlim. The rally would also pay respects to the survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy.

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