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Cos to pay for pollution study

Jan 1, 2011,

Times of India

CHENNAI: At least 13 paint, pharma and chemical units at the SIPCOT industrial complex in Cuddalore have been directed by the Madras high court to pay Rs 1 lakh each for a survey on pollution levels in the locality.

A division bench, comprising Justices Elipe Dharma Rao and D Hariparanthaman, passing interim orders on a public interest writ petition, asked the companies to deposit the amount to the credit of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (Neeri) within a week.

In 2004, the HC treated media reports on the environmental hazards caused by some units in the industrial complex as a PIL and issued notices to a large number of companies. It also issued notice to the forest department authorities and sought to direct the Neeri to ascertain the level of pollution in the Cuddalore region, owing to hazardous industrial units at the SIPCOT complex.

Neeri, however, filed an affidavit, stating that it would need at least `25 lakh to complete the task. Noting that it would require at least three months to collect air and water samples from the 13 identified industries, it said it had to visit various discharge points and gather groundwater samples from the nearby areas as well. "Scientists have to go there and do work and take samples and furnish the report, which is a voluminous work to be done," it said, adding that it would require `25 lakh plus service tax for the purpose.

The judges, granting three months to Neeri to carry out the survey and submit its report to the court, directed the units to deposit `1 lakh each in the account of Neeri, Chennai, within a week. They then adjourned the matter to the first week of April 2011 for further proceedings.

According to media reports, which gave rise to the public interest litigation proceedings, a total of over 20,000 residents in 110 villages around the SIPCOT complex had been exposed to high levels of 22 toxic chemicals, including eight cancer-causing ones.

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