Apr 30, 2011
Times of India
Chennai: Environmental activists are protesting against the lifting of the moratorium on setting up of new industrial units in Cuddalore, rated as one of the most polluted industrial clusters in India. Claiming that violations were still taking place, the SIPCOT Community Environmental Monitoring (SACEM), an NGO, on Friday asked Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh to reconsider the decision to lift the moratorium and criticized the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) for giving a clean chit to the SIPCOT industrial cluster.
A temporary moratorium was imposed in January 2010 by the ministry after the comprehensive environmental pollution index (CEPI) released by it showed Cuddalore to be the 16th most polluted in the country. The moratorium banned setting up of new industries and expansion of the existing units. In October 2010, the ministry extended the moratorium till March 2011, though such moratoriums were lifted from other industrial clusters in the country. However, on February 15, 2011, the ministry lifted the moratorium in Cuddalore too following a report from TNPCB.
Speaking at a media briefing in Chennai, SACEM member T Arulthangam said, “The real situation in Cuddalore can be assessed from the fact that barely two weeks after the lifting of the moratorium, there was a major gas leak from a chemical factory that left more than 300 people injured.”
Arulthangam said TNPCB had served a notice to the same chemical company after a massive discharge of industrial effluents into the towns stormwater drain in August 2010. “The latest incident has not been taken into cognizance by TNPCB in the action plan report for Cuddalore,” he said.
Shweta Narayanan, another SACEM member, alleged that TNPCB had ignored its own data and findings while submitting the report. “The report says that there are no industrial discharges into Uppanar river or SIPCOT drains,” she said. “But attached to the same report are annexures providing data on the water samples taken by the board which show high levels of contaminants.”
A TNPCB official, who did not wish to be named, refuted the allegation and said the annexures were notices mandating changes and improvements. “What is being called as show-cause notices were really notices sent to companies mandating specific changes in their systems to reduce pollution,” he said.
He said the board had thoroughly inspected the cluster and taken all factors into consideration before submitting the report. “In the case of effluent discharge, all companies on the site are now treating their effluents which is let only into the sea and not any other local water bodies or drains.”