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Little hearts pained over mercury contamination

20 March 2013

SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
The Hindu

More than 20 students from six schools in Kodaikanal came to the city on Friday as a part of "Have a heart campaign" to deliver hand-written charts from their fellow students to key officials of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board. They were urging a thorough clean-up of sites that were found contaminated with toxic mercury dumped by the company, Unilever (formerly Pond's India) 12 years ago.

Though the thermometer factory closed on March 7, 2001, the students and environmental activists who accompanied them alleged that the clean-up overseen by the pollution control board over the years had not been thorough or up to international standards. "The TNPCB is helping Unilever do a clean-up to lower standards to cut cost. The levels being considered by the TNPCB are at least 20 times lower than what Unilever would have been required to do if it had caused the contamination in the United Kingdom, where it is based," a statement issued by the environmental group Tamil Nadu Allegiance against Mercury said.

Kodaikanal-based activist Rajesh Mani, who accompanied the students, said the students came from a school near the Moonjikal locality, one of the key places identified with mercury contamination.

They had personally known some children of the factory workers, who were suffering from various health ailments over the years. M.K. Srisudhan (15) from St.Xavier Higher Secondary School, who interacted with the media, said that the students were aware of various long-terms ill-effects of mercury pollution.

Heart symbol

They had all prepared charts with the heart symbol along with their messages in order to send out an appeal to the TNPCB officials.

More than 2,500 students had prepared the charts as part of a ‘Have a heart’ campaign last month and sent their messages through the 20 students.

Mr.Mani told reporters that a Supreme Court-appointed committee consisting of Kodaikanal residents to oversee the remediation efforts had been sidelined.

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