Gummidipoondi Residents Stop Illegal Construction of Toxic Waste Landfill
Gummidipoondi, 21 March 2007 – More than 500 residents, primarily women, from S.R. Kandigai panchayat in Gummidipoondi physically entered and stopped work at the project site of Tamil Nadu Waste Management Ltd (TNWML)'s hazardous waste landfill and incinerator. The construction was being carried out without permission from the local Government bodies and against the wishes of local residents. Representatives of Community Environmental Monitoring (CEM) and Chennai based youth group Youth for Social Change (YSC) also joined the residents in solidarity.
Speaking on behalf of the village, Mr. T. Rosepillai, Panchayat president of S. R. Kandigai said "We will move into the project site with our children and families, and physically block the location of the landfill and incinerator if the company and Government decide to press ahead with the project. If the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee, the TNPCB and Government does not protect us, we will protect ourselves."
TNWML, Hyderabad-based Ramky Associates' subsidiary, commenced civil works on the site on March 8 2007, despite being warned on three occasions against construction without securing permission from the Panchayat Union Council as per the Tamil Nadu Panchayats Act, 1994. In June 2005, the Gummidipoondi Panchayat Union issued a resolution against the toxic facility. S.R. Kandigai Panchayat president also served a notice under the Panchayats Act to the project promoters asking them to stop work and restore the site to its original condition. A police complaint filed on 14 March, 2007, is pending with the SIPCOT Gummidipoondi police station.
Villagers said they are stopping work because Government agencies have failed to discharge their duty of protecting the law. The villagers had taken a similar action in January 2006 when the company had engaged in illegal construction of the landfill. Subsequently, village representatives had moved the Madras High Court and obtained an interim stay on the work. After a year long legal battle, the Madras High Court vacated the stay in December 2006 stating that according to the Supreme Court's order no High Courts in India have jurisdiction over issues relating to hazardous wastes and that the petitioners should take the matter to the Supreme Court of India.
The predominantly agricultural community in the area contends that the project violates Supreme Court-sanctified siting guidelines, and will poison subsurface water, affect agriculture and threaten the groundwater and public health in the residential areas that lie about 500 metres from the project site. While more than 85 percent of the blocks in Tamilnadu have been declared grey zones for groundwater where water levels have plummeted, Gummidipoondi is one of the few blocks with rich groundwater. The porous sand-stone layer at the surface means any contamination from the landfill will quickly flow to the groundwater. Siting guidelines prohibit the setting up of such facilities near water bodies. However, the project site is less than 100 metres from the Kuluva Cheruvu pond. Villagers also point out that it is ironical that the Tamil Nadu Government is contemplating setting up a landfill in an area that supplied several hundred tankerloads of freshwater to Metrowater in 2004. "On the one hand, the Government is contemplating mega-schemes such as the Rs. 500 crore desalination plant. On the other, it is spending money to poison good water," residents said.
The landfill site was arbitrarily recommended by the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee and the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board after the earlier proposal to locate it in Melakottaiyur had to be abandoned because of public opposition.
Organised by: Gummidipoondi Residents and Villagers from S.R. Kandigai Panchayat
C/o T. Rosepillai, Panchayat President, S.R. Kandigai Post, Gummidipoondi Taluk.
Chandrasekhar Reddy. Resident. Tel: 9443117946
In Chennai: Shweta Narayan, Community Environmental Monitoring. Tel: 9444024315