ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) condemns threat of sexual violence against Shreela Manohar, a 23-year old environmental health researcher and campaigner from Chennai. It has come to light from a letter to the National Commission of Women that Shreela Manohar who has been researching and working to stop industrial pollution in Mettur in Tamil Nadu's Salem district for the past 4 months to stop pollution from the factories of Sanmar Chemplast and Madras Aluminium Company (MALCO)was intercepted, harassed and threatened on August 15 by a gang of around 15 men. Mettur is about 500 km west of Chennai.
The role of local police officials of the area merits examination and action by the Superintendent of Police and the District Magistrate in that matter of Shreela Manohar's harassment.
As per the report of the Justice (Retd) Akbar B. Kadri headed Indian People's Tribunal (IPT) on the Environmental and Human Rights Violations by Chemplast Sanmar and MALCO Industries at Mettur, Tamilnadu, irreparable damage to humans and the environment has been caused. The IPT panel has concluded that Sanmar Chemplast and MALCO are not handling highly hazardous processes and their by-products in the proper manner. The IPT found "highly hazardous mercury wastes were disposed of in pits with no secured linings, causing contamination of groundwater, which has led to large-scale decline in agricultural productivity" in the Mettur area.
Chemplast Sanmar is a company of the Sanmar Group which is a major manufacturer of PVC resins, Caustic Soda, Chlorochemicals, Refrigerant gas, Industrial Salt and PVC piping systems. Its manufacturing facilities are located at Mettur, Panruti, Cuddalore, Vedaranyam and Ponneri in Tamil Nadu, Shinoli in Maharashtra, and Karaikal in Puducherry.
MALCO is part of Vedanta Resources Plc. The group produces Aluminium, copper, zinc, lead and iron ore and also commercial energy. MALCO is one of the largest private sector power suppliers in Tamil nadu, with a power generation capacity of 100 MW from four units of 25MW each through its power plant located at Mettur, Tamilnadu.
A study submitted by Chennai-based Community Environmental Monitoring on air quality above Chemplast's PVC effluent outfall into Kaveri river found 17 toxic chemicals, including ethylene dichloride, vinyl chloride monomer, hydrogen sulphide, carbon tetra chloride and chloroform. Some of these chemicals were upto 32000 times higher than safe levels. Another study by Dr. M. Arunachalam and Dr. M. Muralidharan found that tissue of fish found downstream of Chemplast's effluent discharge point in Kaveri river suffered damage characteristic of heavy metal poisoning, particularly mercury.
The members of IPT toured the pollution-impacted villages of Mettur and observed:
The discharge by Chemplast Sanmar of overpoweringly smelly effluents through a pipeline into the Kaveri.
The dumping of highly toxic mercury wastes by Chemplast in pits located uphill of several water sources, including the Kaveri.
MALCO's indiscriminate disposal of toxic Red Mud on the banks of the Stanley Reservoir, and the Government's apathy towards it.
Several people who had been severely and visibly injured due to occupational incidents or routine occupational exposure to toxins, had received none of the compensation or medical care that is lawfully due to them.
Neither MALCO nor Chemplast seem to have been penalised for their lapses.
MALCO's "Red Mud" dump on the banks of the Stanley is a disaster waiting to happen. Red mud, a waste and pollutant is produced at a rate of twice the amount of the desired end product, i.e., aluminium. "It is a pity that we, in Tamilnadu, fight annually for Kaveri's water, but welcome it with toxic wastes and red mud upon its entry into our state," said Justice Kadri. A heavy downpour could wash the entire mountain of toxic red mud into the reservoir, rendering the structure unusable, and contaminating water supplies for hundreds of kilometres.
The polluters must be made to compensate for contaminated lands and groundwater, and to remediate the environment by removing the Chemplast toxic dumps and MALCO's Red Mud.
In view of the above concerns. the work of Shreela Manohar merits appreciation and support from all the sane sections of society to defeat the intimidation tactics of the industrial giants who are committing corporate crimes with impunity with the connivance of the State officials.
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