Public hearings on waste disposal `cannot be an option'
By Our Staff Reporter
The Hindu. October 15, 2004
CHENNAI, OCT. 14, While welcoming the report of the Supreme Court Monitoring
Committee (SCMC) on hazardous waste management in Tamil Nadu, environmental
groups have reacted sharply to its recommendation to do away with public
hearings on construction of waste disposal facilities within industrial
The recommendation, if adopted, will put the clock back on the struggle for
environmental protection .It is the right of the public to participate in
governance issues, which affect their lives, the groups say.
The SCMC recommended that the option of constructing a treatment, storage
and disposal facility (TSDF) for hazardous wastes at Melakottaiyur in
Kancheepuram district be put on hold and that common landfills be provided
within the confines of industrial areas and industrial estates. For secured
landfills within industrial estates, it might not be necessary to conduct
public hearings as the industrial estate was already an approved notified
The SCMC said hazardous wastes destined for Melakottaiyur might be routed,
for the time being, to possible common disposal sites within the
Gummidipoondi industrial estate or in its vicinity.
Calling the suggestions a serious blow to public participation, the
Melakottaiyur Environment Protection Committee, a village group formed
specifically to fight against the proposed TSDF in the locality, said the
SCMC, even while saving the villagers from the toxic project, condemned the
residents at and around existing industrial estates to contamination.
It recommended that the Government mandate toxic use reduction and
time-bound waste reduction programmes for hazardous industries.
In a statement, Arpudhanesam of the Melakottaiyur committee said it would
continue to press for a mandate for setting up landfills away from
waterbodies and residential neighbourhoods.
Bharath Jayaraj of the Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group said doing
away with hearings would amount to curtailing the rights of public
participation on issues that affected people's lives.
The people turning up in large numbers at hearings was a pointer to their
poor confidence in government mechanism.
A blanket rule for all industrial estates might not be reasonable as several
estates, including at Cuddalore, Tuticorin and Ennore, had communities
living around them.
The suitability of a site should be decided only after going through the
rigours of the process, he added.
The Government had earmarked nearly 70 hectares of land for putting up the
facility through the Small Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu.
Melakottaiyur was one of the seven sites identified by the Tamil Nadu
Pollution Control Board for establishing a TSDF.
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