Saturday March 19 2005 08:53 IST
CHENNAI: Villagers from Gummidipoondi participating in a public hearing on Friday were unanimous in their opposition to the hazardous waste landfill near their homes.
“We don’t want our villages to become dump yards. Do you take us for fools?” Padmanabhan, a local activist associated with Pasumai Thayagam a magazine brought out by the PMK asked the panelists. Most of the villagers said the health of their children was already affected by various pollutants from industries in the Gummidipoondi belt.
NGO representatives, activists and the locals were angry that a project like this was being mooted. However, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board is keen on setting up a landfill and hazardous waste management facility at Gummidipoondi that could treat/store industrial waste.
Activist R Arul said: “Our area is rich in groundwater resources. If there is any accidental leak of the chemical waste into the soil, all our water would be contaminated.” He pointed out that during the water crisis last summer, Gummidipoondis water resources were tapped for Chennai.
E Rajendran of Pappanankuppam said he was taken to Hyderabad by Ramky Enviro Engineers – who have the contract to set up the landfill – to view a similar project there. “I had to wear a mask when I went to the landfill. Do you mean to say that all of us in the village have to start wearing masks considering that the landfill proposed is less than half a kilometre from our homes,” he demanded.
Nearly 500 people, including a large number of women, had come to the public hearing at the Tiruvallur Collectorate, despite the fact that it was at least 45 kilometers from their villages. A petition was filed in the High Court by 83-year-old Krishnamaraju to locate the public hearing at a more convenient place, but the court said that the petition had come too late. However, the court put a freeze on passing any orders at Friday’s public hearing. The petition will be taken up again on Tuesday.
Holding a public hearing away from where the people who may be affected live was a deliberate attempt by the TNPCB to “sneak in” the project, said Nityanand Jayaraman of The Other Media, an initiative helping communities to monitor pollution in Cuddalore. He also said that the rapid environmental assessment taken by the NEERI failed to cover crucial safety aspects. Cleaner production process by industries was the answer to reduce and manage waste, he asserted.
“The quantity of each type of waste has not been mentioned in the assessment report. This demonstrates that no detailed characterization of waste have been done,” said Sudhakar, representative of NGO, Toxic Links.
Officials from the TNPCB and the Tamil Nadu Waste Management Limited offered explanations about the safety of the project and the measures taken to prevent any leakage. However, the people were not willing to buy these. “When you cant even get the survey numbers right (the NEERI report had quoted numbers that did not cover the project site), how can we believe you?” a villager asked the panel.