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PUCL July, 2004

Pollution threat to the island of Eloor

Public interest petition filed by Kerala state unit of PUCL before the monitoring committee on hazardous waste and hazardous chemicals set up by the Supreme Court of India.

Also see,
Report of the visit of the SCMC to Kerala with recommendations (14.8.2004)

PCB constitutes local monitoring committee, The Hindu 19 August 2004

PUCL for action against polluting industries and a moratorium new hazardous units in Eloor, 12 August 2004

Also see, States told to guard against toxic waste dumping, The Hindu 13 August 2004

Criminal action against HIL recommended, The Hindu, 2 August 2004

A nightmare comes true for Eloor residents, The Hindu, 6 July 2004

Eloor residents complain of water pollution , The Hindu, 15 May 2004


Eloor is one of the world's most toxic spots By George Iype, Rediff.com, October 10, 2003

Eloor population at high risk, Greenpeace India

Dr. G. Thyagarajan
Chairman
Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Wastes and Hazardous Chemicals Set up by the Supreme Court
(e mail: drgtrajan @ yahoo.co.in)

Dear Sir,

Eloor is an island situated on the banks of Periyar river with a population of 40,000. The largest Industrial Belt in Kerala is located at Eloor, with more than 247 chemical industries, manufacturing petrochemical products, pesticides, rare-earth elements, rubber processing chemicals, fertilizers, zinc/ chrome products, leather products etc. These industries discharge 17,35,00,000 liters highly polluted effluents per day into the river Periyar. This leads to the large-scale devastation of aquatic life in the river and agricultural lands. In addition to this there are many unidentified chemicals in the air, water and soil. The factories are located in such a way that they trap the entire island and the only bridge to the mainland is far away from the residential area. In the event of a chemical disaster like the one happened in Bhopal, the local residents have no way to escape.

2. In December 1999 Greenpeace International, reported that due to the discharge of untreated effluents there is substantial contamination of water and soil with DDT, HCH [BHC], Endosulfan, heavy metals and a wide range of other hazardous Organochlorines. Thereafter, in September 2003 Green peace International conducted a health survey in the locality and found that there is an overwhelming increase in most types of systemic diseases at Eloor. Clinically confirmed Cancer incidence is greater in Eloor at a significant rate. In case of a Chemical disaster, the lives of the residents of Eloor and the nearby places, including Kochi City will be seriously affected.

It is highly necessary to provide a Disaster Management Plan and other permanent facilities for immediate medical treatment and evacuation of people. The petitioner as well as other local residents were approaching the respondents 1 and 2 to take effective action to control and reduce the pollution, for the last several years. However till this date no steps had been taken to do so. Hence this writ petition.

3. Periyar Malineekarana Virudha Samithi (Reg. No. E.R.841/2003) as well as other local residents approached the Secretary to Government, Department of Health and Family Welfare,Thiruvananthapuram and Kerala State Pollution Control Board to take effective action to control and reduce the pollution, for the last several years. There is a creek known as ‘Kuzhikkandam Thodu’, carrying highly contaminated water and draining into the River Periyar. On 10.4.1990, there was fire in this stream due to the burning of toluene, which was discharged from Hindustan Insecticides Ltd. Since no action was taken by the authorities in the matter of abating pollution and in taking effective safety measures, the local residents decided to close the stream. In order to prevent that, the Additional District Magistrate, Fort Kochi convened a meeting of all concerned, on 27.7.1990. In that meeting, the Pollution Control Board [KPCB] admitted that the polluted water which is flowing through Kuzhikkandam Thodu’ is not properly treated by the factories and that the main source of polluted water in Kuzhikkandam Thodu’ is Hindustan Insecticides Ltd. and M/s Fertilizers and Chemicals, Travencore Ltd.

The following decisions had been taken in the matter:

  • It was directed to implement strict pollution control measures in respect of Hindustan Insecticides Ltd. and M/s Fertilizers and Chemicals, Travencore Ltd. The Board was directed to identify the chemicals in the effluent water originating from these factories.
  • Hindustan Insecticides Ltd. and Fertilizers and Chemicals, Travencore Ltd. will have to submit a report before the Revenue Divisional Officer, regarding the details of the effluent water discharging from the factories and the measures taken by them to purify the same, within 10 days.
  • Hindustan Insecticides Ltd. and M/s Fertilizers and Chemicals, Travencore Ltd. have to take proper steps to acquire the lands on both sides of Kuzhikkandam Thodu’ .
  • The local residents have to submit a memorandum before the Revenue Divisional Officer regarding the rehabilitation of 85 families living on both sides of Kuzhikkandam Thodu’. The Revenue Divisional Officer will enquire the matter and submit a report before the Government.
  • Hindustan Insecticides Ltd. and M/s Fertilizers and Chemicals, Travencore Ltd. have to enquire about the possibilities for arranging group insurance for 85 families living on both sides of Kuzhikkandam Thodu’. The Revenue Divisional Officer will take initiative to conduct a medical camp for the local residents within one month and the expenses will be met by Hindustan Insecticides Ltd. and M/s Fertilizers and Chemicals, Travencore Ltd. The possibilities of involving companies like T.C.C, I.R.E. etc. will also be enquired.
  • the companies located at Eloor Industrial Belt, should conduct the awareness camps regarding pollution and the precautions to be taken by the people

However till this date no steps had been taken by the concerned to implement any of the decisions. Not even a single health survey has been conducted in this area till this date.

4. Some environmental groups and scientists have conducted extensive studies relating to the impacts of pollution on the environment and human beings, at Eloor. In 1999 Greenpeace International, conducted an investigation into the nature of effluents being discharged by Hindustan Insecticides Ltd., which is manufacturing DDT and Endosulfan. The result of the investigation was published in December 1999, concluding that due to the discharge of untreated effluents there is substantial contamination of water and soil with DDT, HCH [BHC], Endosulfan, heavy metals and a wide range of other hazardous Organochlorines. One such study is by Greenpeace International in December 1999.

5. Aggrieved by the incessant pollution, Periyar Malineekarana Virudha Samithi submitted several representations to the concerned authorities as well as the erring companies to take effective steps to redress the grievance of the public. Thereupon, the Pollution Control Board convened a meeting with Periyar Malineekarana Virudha Samithi on 29.6.2000.

In the meeting the following decisions were taken:

  • The Board will publish a report regarding the activities of the Board [including the new proposals] in Eloor –Edayar area by September 2000.
  • A monitoring station shall be set up within six months, immediately after the land is obtained at Eloor. At this station public will be permitted to visit and collect the information /data they require.
  • Arrangements shall be made to close down the unauthorized outlets of factories if such outlets are located during the proposed survey by the Board. It was decided to conduct a survey with the assistance of Samithy members for locating authorized and unauthorized outlets since 7.7.2000.
  • Action will be taken to start the project on heavy metal monitoring of the lower reaches of Periyar river immediately.
  • A training programme for the general public will be organized jointly by the Samithy and the Board at Eloor –Edayar area. The Board will extend financial and Technical support for arranging the training programme.
  • Supporting evidence will be given by the Board to public memorandum on calamities for getting compensation to the affected people.

Following this, a survey was conducted to find out the unauthorized outlets. Eventhough it was found that there are 60 outlets and 14 canals discharging the untreated effluents into River Periyar, out of which 35 outlets are unauthorized, nothing was done by the Board till this date for removing the same or to implement any of the decisions.

6. Thereafter, in September 2003 Green peace International conducted a health survey in the locality and found that there is an overwhelming increase in most types of systemic diseases at Eloor. The main organs that are affected are the neoplasm blood and blood forming organs, endocrine, nutritional and metabolic system mental and behavioral, nervous system, eyes and adnexa Ear and Mastoid process, circulatory system Respiratory system, Digestive system Skin and subcutaneous tissue, Musculo- skeletal system and connective tissue, the Genito urinary system, Congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomes etc. clinically confirmed Cancer incidence is greater in Eloor at a significant rate.

7. In September 2003 the same organization published a report regarding the status of pollution in river Periyar. From the Analytical report it can be seen that the river Periyar is being continuously poisoned by the factories at Eloor.

8. In this regard it is submitted that the Comptroller and Auditor General reported that due to the insufficient monitoring of effluent treatment by industries as well as the Pollution Control Board, Periyar river was polluted with high concentration of chemicals. It was stated in the report that six units operated unauthorized outlets to conceal discharge of untreated sewers. Two massive fish kills in the river occurred in June/July 1998 due to high concentration of chemicals, which the river could not assimilate. Analysis of water samples by the Pollution Control Board from 12 points in the river involving three major units, i.e., FACT Cochin Division, Hindustan Organic Chemicals Limited, Cochin Refineries Ltd, on July 1998 disclosed concentration of Ammoniacal Nitrogen at 12 to 24 mg/l as against permissible limit of Zero , free Ammonia 0.722 to 2.08 mg/l as against limit of 0.05 mg/l ,dissolved oxygen at 0.73 to 3.73 mg/l as against the minimum of 4 mg/l . In the report submitted before this Honorable Court in November 1998, the Pollution Control Board admitted that proper dilution and dispersion of effluent was not taking place during summer days because of less rate of flow due to bund constructed across the Eloor branch of the river for preventing salinity intrusion.

9. In December 2003 the Greenpeace International published another report after conducting a follow-up study reconfirming the contamination of the entire atmosphere of Eloor with the highly toxic Organo chlorines and heavy metals. It was also reported that the metals found to be contaminating the creeks, exhibit a wide range of toxic effects on terrestrial and aquatic life including human beings. Many heavy metals, including Cadmium, Copper, mercury and Zinc are able to accumulate in animals and fish. In addition to any local impacts, the discharges from these factories can be expected to add to the global burden of persistent organic and inorganic pollution.

10. In another report published by Dr.M.L.Joseph, for Kerala Research Programme for Local Level Development, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, in January 2004, it is stated that gamma spectra Analysis of three species of edible fishes, showed significant level of radioactive contamination due to Thorium. The load of Mercury in Periyar River from various sources was estimated as 0.6.Kg per day as per the studies conducted by the Board and comparatively higher concentration of Copper and zinc in bottom sediments was recorded and it was considered as one of the reason for absence of bottom fauna in the polluted zone of Periyar river. Further it was reported that 16 species had been disappeared from Periyar within a span of 50 years

.The report concluded as follows:

  1. The large scale industrialization and the consequent effluent discharge has made this part of the river almost lifeless or dead.
  2. Now a days the river has become a sewage canal carrying a myriad of hazardous and toxic industry- borne pollutants.
  3. At present, the fishery from this area is gradually vanishing.
  4. Massive destruction of fauna and flora including large scale fish kills , has become routine where the river resembles a graveyard of all biotic forms
  5. The productivity at various level seems to be critically shattered.
  6. Significant level of radioactivity was noted in water, sediment and biota in Periyar River in the industrial area.
  7. High level concentration of heavy metals in the river including Manganese, Zinc, Cadmium and Mercury
  8. Elevated level of nutrients like nitrate , phosphate, sulphate etc.
  9. IAbnormal coloration like greenish brown, reddish brown, bluish brown which changes every day with chemical smell and appearance of oil layer coating on surface.
  10. Fluctuation in PH ranging from 1.3. to 5.7
  11. Comparatively higher concentration of wide spectrum of pesticides.

11. In this regard it is submitted that in 1998 there was a massive fish killing in Periyar. This river is the source of drinking water for more than 40,00,000 of people .The wells and the agricultural lands in Eloor- Edayar area has been completely rendered useless due to chemical contamination. None of the factories have conducted any awareness programmes for the local residents regarding the safety measures to be taken in case of an accident. No Chemical Disaster Management Plan has been prepared by any of the industries till this date. The Periyar Malineekarana Virudha Samithi submitted a representation before the Minister for Fisheries to take effective action to control and reduce the pollution. But no action was taken on the representation till this date.

12. It is also pertinent to note in this regard that none of the industries dealing with the hazardous chemicals have provided the necessary data to the public regarding the hazardous chemicals within the unit and the quantities of air and water effluents and hazardous waste generated. The industries are functioning without the notified sites for disposal of hazardous waste. M/s Indian Rare Earths Ltd. is keeping thousands of tones of radioactive wastes in their premises in totally unsafe conditions. If this is not removed and properly disposed, it will lead to serious contamination in the surrounding areas.

13. On 6.7.2004, at about 2.A.M., a massive fire gutted the Endosulfan plant of the Hindustan Insecticides Limited Factory at Eloor releasing toxic gases into the atmosphere. Fearing for their lives hundreds of people rushed to the Eloor Ferry to cross Periyar River. However they could not cross the river since there was no boat service and only a few could escape from there. There are no bus services also at that time of the night .The factory did not have any off-site emergency plan. The fire could be brought under control only after two and half hours. The fire Engines had to come from FACT, Kochi Refineries, Indian Navy and The Kerala state Fire and Rescue Services. There were no arrangements for evacuating people to prevent their exposure to the toxic chemicals, which have long-term adverse health impacts. As a result the people were exposed to the toxic fumes and are affected by various diseases.

14. In case of a Chemical disaster, the lives of the residents of Eloor and the nearby places, including Kochi City will be seriously affected and entrapped with practically no ways to escape. Most of the time, the doctors were not even able to diagnose the disease caused due to the exposure to various toxic chemicals due to the lack of ready information available from the concerned factory. The service of a toxicologist is not available to the people at Eloor. It is highly necessary to provide a disaster management plan and other facilities for immediate medical treatment.

We request the Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Wastes and Hazardous Chemicals set up by the Supreme Court to directly inspect the sites of companies such as (1) M/s Fertilizers and Chemicals , Travancore Ltd, Udyogamandal.P.O. (2) M/s Hindustan Insecticides Ltd, Udyogamandal.P.O. (3) M/s Indian Rare Earths Ltd, Udyogamandal.P.O.and (4) M/s Binani Zinc, Udyogamandal.P.O to0 assertain the above and for immediate action to rectify the same as well as to initiate steps against the authorities for their inactions.

YOURS FAITHFULLY

Gen Sec Mr. Vilayody Venugopalan
President Adv. Pouran
Jacob.V.Lazer ,
Kerala State Treasurer
Peoples Union For Civil Liberties.
e-mail ID: jacobkaloor@yahoo.co.uk


Copy to:
1. Shri Sudhir Mital, Jt. Secretary, Ministry of Environment & Forests (e.mail: sudhir-mital@sify.com, Member
2. Dr. V. Rajagopalan,Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board,Parivesh Bhawan, East Arjun Nagar,New Delhi-32(e mail: cpcb@sansad.nic.in, cpcb@alpha.nic.in), Member
3. Dr. Tapan Chakrabarti, Director, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nehru Marg,Nagpur-440 020(e mail: twmneeri_ngp@sancharnet.in), Member
4. Shri G.S. Dang, Scientist F, Indian Institute of Petroleum (IIP), Dehradun- 248 005 (email: gdang@iip.res.in), Member
5. Dr. S.P. Mehrotra, Director, National Metallurgical Laboratory (NML), Jamshedpur- 831 007 (e mail: spm @nmlindia.org) Member
6. Dr. J.S. Yadav, Director, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), Uppal Road, Hyderabad-500 007 (email: yadav@i... ;yadav@i...) Member
7. Dr. Claude Alvares, Goa Foundation, G-8 Britto's Apartment,Fiera Alta, Mapusa, Goa- 403 507 (email: iob@sancharnet.in) Member
8. Dr. D.B. Boralkar, Member Secretary, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board,Kalpatru Point, 3rd Floor, Sion-Matunga Scheme Road No. 8,Opp. Sion Circle, Sion(E), Mumbai-400 022(e.mail: varunbkar@y...) Member
9. Dr. N.H. Hosabettu, Director, HSM Division, MoEF (e.mail: nhosabettu@y...) Member-Secretary
10. Dr. U. Sridharan, Addl. Director, HSMD, Ministry of Environment & Forests MoEF
11. Ms. Usha Subramaniam, Jt. Director, HSMD, Ministry of Environment & Forests(e.mail: usha565@y...) MoEF

 

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