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Plan to set up new facility in Cuddalore sparks row

Vani Doraisamy
THE HINDU
Jan, 6, 2006

Residents near SIPCOT complex have threatened to go on fast

CHENNAI: Protesting against what they called the 'inability' of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to check industrial pollution by the SIPCOT industrial complex in Cuddalore, residents of half a dozen villages adjoining the complex have threatened to go on an indefinite fast if permission is given to start any new industrial units.

"Our land and water resources have already been completely destroyed by toxic emissions and discharge of untreated effluents for the past 50 years. The health of a one lakh-strong population living around the complex has also been severely compromised. Now, there is a proposal to locate a new manufacturing facility. If the facility is allowed to come up, Cuddalore will turn into a wasteland where human habitation will become impossible," Thanakodi, a fishermen's representative from Sonakanchavadi, Cuddalore said.

Nearly 150 residents from the villages of Sonakanchavadi, Sangolikuppam, Rasapettai, Chithirapettai, Injampettai, Echangadu and Kudikadu assembled at the TNPCB office here on Thursday and demanded withdrawal of permission for setting up the new facility.

Untreated effluents

"Despite assurances by the Board and the factory that no untreated effluents will be let into the Uppanar river, the discharge still continues, severely depleting fish catch and causing extreme skin ailments in fishermen. The growth rate of children has also been affected, not to speak of air pollution-related respiratory disorders. The acidic sludge that is washed onto the agricultural land has affected several hundred acres. Despite severe livelihood loss, no compensation has been given till now," said Madhiazhagan of Sangolikuppam.

"A report by the Indian People's Tribunal headed by Justice Akbar Kadri in July last year on pollution by chemical units in the SIPCOT found evidence of irreparable damage to humans and the environment. An earlier report by another tribunal headed by Justice J.Kanagaraj had also ruled against setting up the new facility," said Nithyanand Jayaraman of the Corporate Accountability Desk.

"Vastly improved" situation

Residents of Konur village in Mettur, who said they too had been similarly affected by a chemical unit in their neighbourhood, also expressed their solidarity with the Cuddalore villagers. TNPCB officials, however, said the situation in Cuddalore had "vastly improved" in the past few years.

"A set of new pollution control measures have been put in place and stringent conditions have been imposed on defaulting industries. We will ensure that the best pollution-control technologies are followed. As the Central Pollution Control Board has not prescribed any standards for volatile organic compounds, nothing much can be done about that. In all other cases, strict monitoring will be done and if the villagers point out any specific technical points needed in pollution-control, we will look into it," Surjit K.Chaudhury, State Environment Secretary and TNPCB Chairperson told this newspaper.

Meanwhile, the villagers have threatened a series of agitations if the Board does not review permission granted to set up new industries.

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