Gummidipoondi Women Launch Campaign Against Toxic Waste Facility; Urge CM to scrap project
S.R. Kandigai Women Self Help Groups
B. R. Kandigai Village, S. R. Kandigai Panchayat, Gummidipoondi, Thiruvallur District
Chennai, 9 March 2006: Six Women's Self Help Groups from Gummidipoondi with a membership of more than 500 have launched a campaign against the proposed hazardous waste landfill and incinerator in their village. Addressing a press conference in Chennai today, the members announced that they have collected over 400 signatures from members to urge the Chief Minister to scrap the project. They hope to meet the CM this week to convey this message.
Tamil Nadu Waste Management Ltd. (TNWML), a subsidiary of Hyderabad-based Ramky group, has been trying to forcibly set up a hazardous waste landfill and incinerator in Gummidipoondi since 2005. Assisted by the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board and the Government of Tamilnadu, the Ramky project has violated environmental and Panchayat laws. The TNPCB held a public hearing for the project without conducting an Environmental Impact Assessment. The site approved by the Government of Tamilnadu for the siting of the toxic waste facility is a low-lying area, adjacent to a 4 acre lake, and in an area with rich groundwater. "In our village, we still respect our water, and our wells and tanks are clean unlike those in Chennai. If the water is affected, the women will suffer extreme hardships. Even if the Government can’t help us, can’t they at least avoid hurting us?" asked Lalithamma of the Roja Self Help Group from B.R. Kandigai.
In October, 2005, work that began on the approved plots had to be abandoned because it was located in a depression, and the first showers led to flooding of the site. However, all studies performed by NGRI and NEERI contain data that indicate that the selected site is unsuitable for the location of such toxic waste facilities. According to the Central Pollution Control Board, such facilities should be located away from water bodies, human habitation, and agricultural farms, and in areas where groundwater table is not high. Gummidipoondi is unsuitable on all these respects. The project site is located less than 100 metres from the Gangathotti Eri and in a groundwater rich area. In 2004, MetroWater actually took hundreds of tankerloads of water to cater to Chennai’s demand. "It is ironical that the Government is spending Rs. 200 crores to set up a toxic waste facility that will poison one of its drinking water sources, even while it contemplates spending another Rs. 500 crore to set up a desalination plant because our lakes, tanks and rivers are polluted," the women said.
On January 9, 2006, villagers filed a police complaint after Ramky began illegal construction at the project site even without TNPCB’s approval. TNPCB issued the approval a day after the police complaint was filed. However, irate villagers, mainly women, entered the project site and chased away the earth-moving equipment and halted work. The Panchayat President has taken the matter to court.
Villagers will also approach the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Wastes with their petition. According to the TNPCB, the site was recommended by the SCMC and the illegal work on the site has the sanction of the Committee.
Gummidipoondi was chosen not by any scientific process of site selection, but arbitrarily by the government after an earlier site in Melakottaiyur had to be abandoned because of public opposition. Other sites in Siruseri area were abandoned because of the IT sector proposed for the area. IT professionals require clean air and water, and would not appreciate working near a toxic waste facility.
For more details, please contact:
Lalitamma (Roza Self Help Group, B.R. Kandigai, Gummidipoondi) – 044 27921798;
In Chennai - Shweta Narayan – 9444024315; Nityanand Jayaraman – 9444082401
C/o H19/4, Gangai Street, Kalakshetra Colony, Besant Nagar, Chennai – 600090