By Our Staff Reporter
OCT. 27, 2004
CHENNAI, Tamil Nadu
Environmental groups have welcomed the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee (SCMC) report on hazardous waste management in Tamil Nadu, but have rejected its recommendation to do away with public hearings on constructing waste disposal facilities within industrial estates.
If the recommendation is adopted, it will put the clock back on the struggle for environmental protection, say the groups, who argue the public has the right to participate in issues of governance that affect their lives.
The SCMC recommended that the option of constructing a treatment, storage and disposal facility (TSDF) for hazardous wastes at Melakottaiyur in Kancheepuram district be put on hold and that common landfills be provided withinindustrial areas and industrial estates. For secured landfills within industrial estates, it might not be necessary to conduct public hearings since the industrial estate was already an approved notified site.
The SCMC said that hazardous wastes intended for Melakottaiyur might be routed temporarily to possible common disposal sites within the Gummidipoondi industrial estate or in its vicinity.
Terming the suggestions a blow to public participation, the Melakottaiyur Environment Protection Committee, a village group formed to fight against the proposed TSDF in the locality, said the SCMC, while saving the villagers from the toxic project, had condemned the residents in and around existing industrial estates to contamination.
It recommended that the government mandate toxic use reduction and time-bound waste reduction programmes for hazardous industries.
In a statement, Arpudhanesam of the Melakottaiyur committee said that it would continue to press for a mandate for setting up landfills away from water bodies and residential neighbourhoods.
Bharath Jayaraj of the Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group said that doing away with hearings would amount to curtailing public participation in issues that affected people’s lives. The large number of people who turned up at hearings indicated the lack of confidence in government mechanism. A blanket rule for all industrial estates might not be reasonable as several estates, including at Cuddalore, Tuticorin and Ennore, had people living around them.
The suitability of a site should be decided only after going through the rigours of the process, he added. The Government had earmarked 70 hectares for putting up the facility through the Small Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu. Melakottaiyur was one of the seven sites identified by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board for establishing a TSDF.
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