New Wind Press
September 25, 2004
KOCHI: Nine years ago, when the refinery Unocal at Rodeo, California sprouted a hazardous chemical leak, the local community was put in the dark. They did not have a clue as to what it was and how to take the company to task.
“It was like a giant aerosol canister, spraying 200 tonnes of chemicals for a stretch of 16 days,” says Denny Larson, CEO, Global Community Monitor, an international NGO that assists neighbourhood communities in fighting pollution, as he recalls the tragedy that led to the formation of the “bucket brigade”.
The idea of the “bucket” – a simple equipment attached with a sturdy bag and a hand-held vacuum pump that can be used to trap volatile gases – originated from an universal frustration.
“There was no mechanism to monitor pollution in a way useful to local communities. We have the Pollution Control Boards in US like the ones here. But I have found that they are almost the same everywhere. They don”t monitor all the gaseous parameters and said all was fine in the town,” says Denny who is in Kerala to train the local community in and around Eloor in monitoring the environment.
Bucket Brigade which was founded in San fransisco in 1995 has now presence in several countries including Thailand, Philippines, South Africa, Spain, Scotland and Kazakhsthan. India is the 12th country which is getting help from the Brigade.
For Denny, empowering local communities is a two way flow of ideas. “We give them something and in return, imbibe their knowledge. I believe the Local Area Environment Committees (LEACs) set up at the instance of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee (SCMC) is a step in the right direction. An idea I would be taking with me back home to emulate elsewhere,” says Denny who is quite excited about the SCMC intervention.
According to him, grass root level campaigns are getting increasingly effective in making polluters pay. But involving trade unions in environmental dialogues is not an easy task.
Denny would provide hands-on training in using the “bucket” to collect air samples at the “bucket assembly” session of the community monitor empowerment program to be held at Edappally on Saturday.