For Immediate Release
Cuddalore Air Pollution Report Triggers Legal Action
The Other Media & FEDCOT
H19/4 Gangai Street, Kalakshetra Colony, Besant Nagar, Chennai 600 090
CHENNAI, 29 September, 2004 – The Tamilnadu Legal Services Authority filed a writ petition in the Madras High Court in response to a report titled "Gas Trouble: Air Quality in SIPCOT, Cuddalore" prepared by the SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitors (SACEM). Using a unique community sampling tool called "Bucket" to sample ambient air in the vicinity of SIPCOT chemical industries, the Monitors found the SIPCOT air to contain 22 toxic gases, at least 13 of which are raw materials used in SIPCOT factories. Samples were taken to coincide with intense chemical odour incidents downwind of Tagros Chemicals, Asian Paints, Shasun Chemicals and CUSECS. However, the results may include chemicals from more than just one company.
The petition came up for hearing on 28 September, 2004. The High Court issued notice to the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board to respond to the petition in three weeks. Cuddalore groups FEDCOT and SACEM plan to intervene in the case. Their demands include: a ban on the expansion or setting up of chemical industries in SIPCOT, provision of clean water to all villages, setting up of specialised and accessible health care facilities for SIPCOT's pollution victims, an air monitoring system and science-based toxics release reduction program for the existing industries.
Despite the fact that the 25 or so SIPCOT industries use more than 100 chemicals, including volatile and toxic compounds, as raw material, the Pollution Control Board has never tested the environment for these chemicals. Neither has a health study been conducted on the village's residents.
"Villagers" complaints have been dismissed without any scientific basis by the authorities, and no scientific assessment of the SIPCOT problem has been presented in 20 years," said Shweta Narayan of Community Environmental Monitoring, a project of Chennai-based The Other Media. "That is why our effort is geared to equipping the villagers with the scientific tools required to monitor their environment."
In March 2004, volunteers from Semmankuppam, Eachangadu and Sangolikuppam underwent training to understand, monitor, document and take action on pollution incidents. Between March and June, the monitors took 5 air samples using the "Bucket" sampler, and sent it to US Environmental Protection Agency-certified Columbia Analytical Laboratories in California. The lab tested the SIPCOT air samples for nearly 70 volatile organic compounds (many of them toxic gases) and 20 sulphur gases.
"The industry and the Pollution Control Board constantly complain of lack of resources and technology. But mere villagers in Cuddalore have proven that they are capable of understanding air pollution and sampling it for toxic gases," said M. Nizamudeen, general secretary of FEDCOT. "It is a matter of shame that the Pollution Control Board and ISO 14000 companies have to take their cue from villagers in matters of science and technology."
The Community Environmental Monitoring campaign in Cuddalore is a program of FEDCOT, Global Community Monitor, SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitors and The Other Media.
For more information, visit: www.gcmonitor.org ("what's new" section)
or contact Nityanand Jayaraman: 9444082401;
Shweta Narayan: 9444024315