Fire at Indag; TNPCB not to be found                                              _ Cuddalore, 20 May 2006: A fire at the premises of the now-abandoned Coromandel Indag factory in SIPCOT, Cuddalore, spread thick white smoke and panic among local residents. Lakshmi (35), wife of Rajiv, reportedly fainted, upon which the villagers alerted the SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitors. Lakshmi was admitted to Surendra Hospital. The breeze blowing from the Southeast to the Northwest carried the smoke from the fire as far away as the Cuddalore Old Town, about 3 km away.

SACEM estimates that the fire started at around 4.30 p.m. “It was very less at the time, and not many people knew. There was not much of a flame. There was a low blue flame, but a lot of smoke. There was an acid-like smell. We couldn’t go near the smoke,” said SIPCOT monitor S. Ramanathan, who reached the spot by 6 p.m. and alerted the Fire Services. The fire tenders that arrived by 8 p.m. eventually put the fire out by 9 p.m. SACEM has taken an air sample using the bucket.

According to Ramanathan, the Fire Service personnel were hesitant to use water because they did not know the nature of the chemical that was burning and did not want to aggravate the situation. TNPCB Assistant Engineer said he was on leave, and the District Environmental Engineer was not reachable. The factory is under lock-out, and the premises are under the control of the Court. A police complaint has been filed.

Besides Indag, hazardous wastes are stored in several other closed units including JK Pharma, Maruti Synthetics, Oswali Chemicals, Maruti Labs, Kumaran Carbonates, Pentafour and Tamilnadu Pigments. As early as in January, 2005, SACEM brought the matter of hazardous wastes stored in SIPCOT factories to the notice of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee and the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board. But no action has been taken on the matter by either.

A copy of the report titled “Groundtruths” is available at: