October 07, 2004
Chennai: The Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Waste has made it very clear that the defaulting hazardous waste industries in the state will have to either clean up or shut down. In a report submitted to the State government and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board after its visit to Tamil Nadu, the SCMC has come down heavily on hazardous industries. It has ordered payment of Rs. 50 crore under the polluter pays principle on HLL for clean up of mercury contamination in the tourist town of Kodaikanal. Referring to a recently released report “Gas Trouble” by SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitoring, the committee has recognized gaseous emissions from industries as hazardous waste. It has ordered strict monitoring and compliance of standards of gaseous emissions in SIPCOT Cuddalore for the next three months. Failing which the SCMC would order closure of all industries in this area. The committee rejected the proposal of setting up of hazardous waste Treatment Storage Disposal Facility in Melakottaiyur and has asked TNPCB to look into options within industrial estates. SCMC has also ordered a fresh investigation on the consent orders obtained by M/s Sterlite Industries in Tuticorin.
The SCMC report comments that the hazardous waste situation in the state has not improved much since the last visit of the High Powered Committee of the Supreme Court. SCMC has warned the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board that if in next three month changes are not brought in the situation it will be compelled to take strict action against the Board, like it has done in Kerala.
The report also criticizes the dismissive attitude of the TNPCB towards people, it says, “While the reliance on computerization and electronic data was desirable, the Board ought to seriously respect the data provided in the complaints by human beings and the living sensors of human ears, throats and skin to industrial pollution”. It further goes on to say that “it might be better if the officers of the Board were made to sleep on a bed outside the factory gates, if this were necessary to ensure compliance”.
The environmental and social justice groups around Tamil Nadu have welcomed the SCMC order but have also expressed their serious opposition to certain parts of recommendations made in the report. They feel that recommendations like setting up of TSDF in industrial estates and exemption of public hearing for common disposal facilities when located in conforming industrial estates/areas is undemocratic and dilutes the public participation power of communities. In making such recommendations the SCMC assumes that the current industrial locations confirm to the siting criteria, but in reality they violate all norms. Industrial areas are located next to residential localities and next to water bodies. Setting up of hazardous waste landfills in such area would violate the siting criteria of landfills too, said T. Mohan an environmental activist. The groups have demanded that the landfills should only be allowed in industrial locations if they meet all the siting criteria and there is a public hearing process to ensure that the community’s opinion is considered.
“Instead of looking into misleading solutions like TSDF the SCMC should fix the ownership on the industries, have a complete moratorium on hazardous industries until they show any efforts to reduce the hazardous waste and to shift to clean production” added Mohan.