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Villages near SIPCOT behold a silver lining

Chennai, Sept 28, 2006
NT Bureau
NewsToday.Net

Members of an expert panel, which held a public hearing involving villagers in SIPCOT Cuddalore, have severely condemned the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board and the Inspector of Factories for their negligence in dealing with polluting and hazardous industries in that district.

Addressing a press conference in Chennai yesterday, the panelists expressed opposition to expansion of polluting industries in Cuddalore and called upon the government to respect local sentiments and give up plans for setting up new chemical companies.

A report titled 'Environmental and Human Rights Violations in SIPCOT Complex, Cuddalore' and based on a public hearing and interaction with SIPCOT villagers on 29 July, 2006, was released by the Public Hearing panel comprising professor R Saraswati, retired head of Department of Sociology in Queen Mary's College, professor S Janakarajan of Madras Institute of Development Studies, and Dr Rakhal Gaithonde, a community health physician from Community Health Cell.

The public hearing was organised by SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitoring, Cuddalore District Consumer Protection Organisation and the Community Environmental Monitoring program of The Other Media.

The panelist observed that it was clear that companies with political clout can and do get away with anything in SIPCOT. "Such unregulated and corrupt functioning in dealing with highly hazardous industries located in close proximity to residential populations is a recipe for disaster".

In the report, panelist noted that industries had eroded the self-sufficiency of the region throwing weavers, fisherfolk and farmers out of their traditional livelihood and thereby affecting the local economy. 'The frustration among the local youth was palpable, leading us to believe that any increase in pollution or continued collusion between government and polluting units could result in a serious law and order situation in Cuddalore,' the report said.

The report asked the government to abandon any proposal to set up new polluting industries in Cuddalore. "Instead, the government should look to providing value-adding opportunities to traditional economies such as fisheries, agriculture and weaving". It also wanted the government to help provide access to clean drinking water, clean environment, long-term medical rehabilitation and livelihood support to SIPCOT residents.

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