Gummidipoondi, 30 March 2007 More than 400 residents, primarily women, from Gummidipoondi marched from the SIPCOT Gummidipoondi office to the SIPCOT junction to protest the ongoing illegal work at the proposed landfill and incinerator of Tamil Nadu Waste Management Ltd (TNWML)’s. Despite repeated reminders to the company and BDO, the company has recommenced construction without seeking approval of the Panchayat or the Panchayat Union Council as required under the Tamilnadu Panchayat Building Rules and the Tamilnadu Panchayats Act. More than 400 armed police personnel surrounded the gathering of villagers preventing them from rallying till the landfill site. The police refused to allow the village members to go anywhere in the vicinity of the landfill site. The company got high level security despite being alerted by the S.R. Kandigai Panchayat President about the illegality of the project.
On 26 January, 2007, the S.R. Kandigai Grama Panchayat issued a resolution against the toxic dumpsite on grounds that it will pollute the groundwater, and affect agriculture and human health. Gummidipoondi is one of the few revenue blocks in Tamilnadu that is rich in groundwater and with a high groundwater table. More than 230 out of 384 revenue blocks in Tamilnadu are either over-exploited or critical, according to the Central Groundwater Board. In June 2005, the Gummidipoondi Panchayat Union issued a resolution against the toxic facility.
Speaking on behalf of the village, Mr. T. Rosepillai, Panchayat president of S. R. Kandigai said “By providing police protection to the illegal operations of the company the state has made its intention clear of sacrificing the law-abiding residents of Gummidipoondi in the name of development. All we are asking is that the Panchayat rules must be followed and the company must apply for our permission, without which no construction can be allowed.”
A police complaint filed by residents on 14 March, 2007, is pending with the SIPCOT Gummidipoondi police station. The police has said it will extend support only to the company, and will arrest any body that interferes with the work. Villagers said they are stopping work because Government agencies have failed to discharge their duty of protecting the law and instead had taken the side of the company. The villagers had taken a similar action in January 2006 when the company had engaged in illegal construction of the landfill. Subsequently, village representatives had moved the Madras High Court and obtained an interim stay on the work. After a year long legal battle, the Madras High Court vacated the stay in December 2006 stating that according to the Supreme Court’s order no High Courts in India have jurisdiction over issues relating to hazardous wastes and that the petitioners should take the matter to the Supreme Court of India. The villagers are planning to approach the Supreme Court.
The project violates Supreme Court-sanctified siting guidelines, and will poison subsurface water, affect agriculture and threaten public health in the residential areas that lie about 500 metres from the project site. The porous sand-stone layer at the surface means any contamination from the landfill will quickly flow to the groundwater. Siting guidelines prohibit the setting up of such facilities near water bodies. However, the project site is less than 100 metres from the Kuluva Cheruvu pond. Villagers also point out that it is ironical that the Tamil Nadu Government is contemplating setting up a landfill in an area that supplied several hundred tankerloads of freshwater to Metrowater in 2004. “On the one hand, the Government is contemplating mega-schemes such as the Rs. 500 crore desalination plant. On the other, it is spending money to poison good water,” residents said.
Representatives of Community Environmental Monitoring (CEM), People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and Chennai based youth group Youth for Social Change (YSC) also joined the residents in solidarity.
Environmental Protection Group, Gummidipoondi. S.R. Kandigai Panchayat.
T. Rosepillai, Panchayat President, S.R. Kandigai Post, Gummidipoondi Taluk. Tel: 9865415889