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"Plea to study how CRZ norms are washed away"

26 November 2012

Special Correspondent
The Hindu

Effluents from SIPCOT causing environmental problems

Consumer and environmental activists have given a clarion call to the authorities to immediately conduct a satellite study on the coastal area of Cuddalore, stretching from Thevanampattinam to Parangipettai, to study how far the Coastal Regulatory Zone norms are violated and the consequences of sea erosion that is happening at a fast pace.

Executive secretary of the Consumer Federation - Tamil Nadu, M. Nizamudeen, and representatives of the SIPCOT Area Social and Environmental Monitoring Committee, Arulselvan and Parasuraman, told presspersons here that the untreated effluents from the existing chemical units in the SIPCOT Industrial Estate were causing severe environmental problems.

The study conducted by the Central Pollution Control Board and the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute revealed that the pollution in the SIPCOT area was far in excess of the permissible limit, posing serious health hazards, including cancer and respiratory problems.

Though the study had recommended organising regular health camps for the residents of the surrounding villages it was hardly complied with. They noted that the chemical units, storing highly inflammable and hazardous substances, were not equipped with the requisite fire-fighting equipment and safety officers.

Mostly, these units employ unskilled labourers who are uninitiated in the dangers involved in handling the chemicals. Recently, while unloading, the labour force accidentally dropped a chemical container triggering a blaze and injuring over 20 persons and spreading panic among the villagers.

They further said that the common effluent treatment plant put up on the industrial estate premises too was not functioning properly. Though a real time monitoring system was in place, its readings were fed only to the headquarters of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board in Chennai.

They opined that the readings should be made available to the Cuddalore District Collector and the Cuddalore TNPCB officials for taking speedy remedial measures and making the truant unit fall in line.

They also suggested placing the surveillance cameras at the effluent discharge points and the exit points of the chemical units. They alleged that the chemical units were in the habit of taking out the effluents in tankers and indiscriminately disposing these off into farm lands or other vacant sites, without realising the inherent dangers involved in such mindless action.

They called upon the authorities to insist upon all the units to adopt foolproof waste management system without any leniency. The units should hereafter employ semi-skilled or skilled labour force for loading and unloading operations under the direct supervision of the fully-qualified safety officers.

The coastal villages were already facing the threat of sea erosion and the unauthorised structures put up by the new and upcoming units too had compounded the problem.

Until and unless all safety aspects were complied with, the authorities should neither allow any extension of the existing units or setting up of new units, they added.

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