Residents Protest Effluent Discharge in SIPCOT Canal: Block the National Highway

Cuddalore, 25 August 2010: Protesting the discharge of effluents through the storm water drains by the SIPCOT units, more than 100 residents of SIPCOT Cuddalore blocked the National Highway (NH) 45A today. The villagers were forced to take this step after the effluent discharge contaminated the village canal in Sangolikuppam village of SIPCOT.

According to the sources at about 9.30 am today SIPCOT residents noticed yellow colour water with strong ammonia like odour at the canal opposite the Kudikadu Bus Stop. This canal is parallel to NH45A and runs from Tagros in the north of SIPCOT Complex till the south of Sangolikuppam village ,where it meets the Pillukuthu canal which eventually drains into river Uppanar. It was reported that the odour from the effluent near the bus stop was ranked at around 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 and caused eye burning sensation. Following the canal further towards the South, the residents found black effluent with an oily layer and an acidic fruity odour near the petrol pump at Kudikadu. The residents complained of itching sensation when in contact with the water.

Sources inform that industries regularly release effluent through their stormwater drains during the rainy season. Based on the location where these effluents were found residents suspect TANFAC, Clariant, Shasun, Asian Paints, Aurobindo and Tantech responsible for this discharge. In the absence of a monitoring mechanism it was difficult to ascertain the exact source of the effluents.

While such releases are routine, today the residents particularly got angry as the contamination of Pillukuthu canal would deprive them of water for regular usage. The village panchayat blocks this canal during the rains to harvest rainwater and the entire pool has been contaminated by today's discharge.

Local police was the first to intervene at site to end the blockade but people refused to give in to the pressure and demanded action on the units responsible. Later the Village Officer, Tehsildar and the District Environment Engineer (DEE) of TNPCB intervened in the matter. The negotiations went on for about three hours and finally the blockade was removed upon assurance from DEE that 1) the effluent would be cleaned up immediately, 2) sample would be taken to ascertain the contaminants, 3) adequate action would be taken on the units responsible.

SACEM monitors have also taken a sample of the effluents along with the TNPCB officials. A complaint with regards to today's incident has been sent to District Collector and TNPCB head office.