April 7, 2012
Chennai Victims of the Union Carbide leak from Bhopal have urged the State government to get Hindustan Unilever to clean up the mercury contamination within and outside its thermometer factory in Kodaikanal and rehabilitate affected workers and people.
After meeting Environment Minister B.V. Ramanaa, Bhopal survivors’ leader Balkrishna Namdeo, at a press conference here on Friday, said the State had a great opportunity to develop a robust policy for environmental remediation that would be science-based, participatory and make the polluters pay.
The State government is in the process of formulating an environment policy at present. Over the years, successive polices of the government had failed to address the issue of remediation of contaminated industrial sites, failing which there was the danger of hosting a toxic legacy site like Bhopal in Kodaikanal or the Tamil Nadu Chromates’ chromium-contaminated lands in Vellore for a few more decades, said Usha Ramanathan, a legal expert.
S.A. Mahindra Babu, president of the ex-workers association at the Kodai factory, said the Chief Minister, in her previous term, was able to get the company to take back a few hundred tonnes of mercury from the site back to the USA. Still, thousands of tonnes of contaminated soil and material are lying in and around the factory site, he said seeking Chief Minister’s intervention.
Moreover, the affected people and activists want the government to involve public in the clean-up process.
The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has shut out public oversight and was working with the industry to dilute clean-up standards instead of engaging in a transparent process involving the local community to clean up the contaminated areas to international standards, said Nityanand Jayaraman, an activist.