Tag Archives: SIPCOT Cuddalore

Stop Chemplast returning to Cuddalore: company indicted for careless and dangerous waste disposal wants to return to the heavily polluted SIPCOT site

CUDDALORE, July 26, 2005
Villagers living near the SIPCOT industrial estate near Cuddalore are fighting to prevent the return to the lethally polluted facility (see previous entry) of arch-polluter Chemplast.
Chemplast, the PVC manfacturer from Mettur, was driven out of Cuddalore in 2002. It went to Andhra. But Cuddalore villagers and activists got there earlier. They invited Andhra villagers to Mettur where Chemplast sits atop the Mettur Dam and discharges its wastes into the Cauveri river. The Andhra villagers went back determined not to let Chemplast anywhere near their homes. Nearly 5000 villagers turned up at the public hearing and drove the company out. Now Chemplast is back in Tamilnadu, trying to wriggle its way into Cuddalore. “Chemplast is desperate,” says activist Nityanand Jayaraman, “because this project will make or break its PVC business.”
To find out what you can do to support the Cuddalore villagers and to stop Chemplast, please visit http://www.sipcotcuddalore.com/
Sign the online petition here
PVC or polyvinyl chloride has massive environmental and human health costs. From its manufacture to its disposal, PVC emits toxic compounds. During the manufacture of the building block ingredients of PVC (such as vinyl chloride monomer) dioxin and other persistent pollutants are emitted into the air, water and land, which present both acute and chronic health hazards. During use, PVC products can leach toxic additives, for example flooring can release softeners called phthalates. When PVC reaches the end of its useful life, it can be either landfilled, where it leaches toxic additives or incinerated, again emitting dioxin and heavy metals. When PVC burns in accidental fires, hydrogen chloride gas and dioxin are formed.
Chennai, July 25: The Mettur Indian People’s Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights, a panel constituted by activists, released a report in the city on Monday on the “indiscriminate disposal” of hazardous wastes by Chemplast Sanmar in Mettur near Salem district of Tamil Nadu.
The panel headed by Justice Akbar Basha Kadri, retired judge, Madras high court, which went on a three-day tour of the 35 villages surrounding Mettur between April 29 and May 1 this year, claimed that Chemplast Sanmar and MALCO have caused “irreparable damage” to the people and environment of the town.
Speaking to reporters here, Justice Kadri said the panel had met about 800 villagers and former employees of the two factories and were appalled by the health disorders the villagers were suffering from, allegedly because of the toxic effluents discharged by Chemplast with the consent of the state pollution board into the river Cauvery.
Many women had suffered miscarriages and children had lung disorders, while several residents were suffering from lung and stomach cancer. Due to handling mercury wastes, without gloves, some of the villagers’ hands had turned white and fingers had become crooked. Even the cattle and goats had died, he claimed.
R. Madeswaran, a villager from Mettur, alleged that the chemical release from Chemplast’s chlorine plant last year had caused severe damage to the health of children in the town and the villagers had spent a fortune on hospitals for treatment. He said that whey they lodged a complaint with the police, the authorities claimed that there was no leak. Mr. Kadri said that the agricultural land had become unfit for the cultivation of any crop. Even the water in the 15 wells they had surveyed had become brackish and was emitting a foul smell. The red mud dumped on the banks of the Stanley reservoir by MALCO Ltd could pose a threat to the rivers in the state by polluting them, according to the panel. Based on its findings, the panel has made a few recommendations like supply of clean water to the villagers, compensation for the damage to health and cattle and an immediate stop to the dumping of red mud, among others. The villagers do not want the factories to close down, but only follow the prescribed norms.
In response to the panel’s study, Chemplast issued a statement on Monday condemning the campaign as malicious. The company claimed that it has not violated the norms prescribed by the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board. The release said, that it did not manufacture many of the chemicals as claimed by the panel. Chemplast was not responsible for the death of any fish in river Cauvery and it had not discharged any smelly effluent into the river. It also said that the quantum of effluent discharge had come down from 4000 KL to 1500 KL per day.
The company has launched a programme to achieve zero discharge at Mettur at a cost of Rs. 20 crores. The treated solid waste generated in its plant was placed in secure landfills and there was no possibility of percolation of wastes from the pits to the adjacent sub-soil and water bodies, the company said.

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Tsunami information, relief, donations

As the death toll from the Boxing Day tsunami in the Indian Ocean climbs towards 300,000, we have received these updates from friends in Cuddalore, Tamilnadu and Ko Phi-Phi, Thailand.

Tsunami Update from Cuddalore
Tsunami news from Ko Phi-Phi, Thailand

We will continue updating as we receive more information.

The following information dates from the period immediately after the tsunami struck.

BBC missing persons helpline

AID (Association for India’s Development), a member of the ICJB, runs 32 projects in Tamilnadu, not all have yet been contacted. AID has set up a donation page for immediate and long term aid to victims of the tsunami.

Blogspot offering collection of links and info for people wanting to donate or send rescue materials. Details aid collection centres in Singapore and India, plus first relief efforts in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, with lists of medical supplies needed. Volunteers are needed to update and expand the page which also carries information about donating airmiles, and Everton FC’s tsunami relief appeal and much more.

Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without boundaries) has opened a clinic in Indonesia’s Aceh province near the epicentre of the quake. Information and donations here.

Google’s list of links to major relief agencies accepting donations for the relief of the tsnuami victims. Agencies include American Red Cross, CARE and Sarvodaya.

Nature.com’s links page to organisations providing disaster relief.

Oxfam, UK


ABC News links to organisations carrying out relief work.

Help for Sri Lankan fishing communities
The North Atlantic Marine Alliance (NAMA) in Biddeford, Maine has set up a relief account at St Joseph’s Credit Union for Sri Lankan fishing communities affected by the disaster. The bank will not charge any wiring fees for the funds to be sent to Sri Lanka.

St. Joseph’s Credit Union
NAMA – Relief Efforts
35 Bradbury Street
Biddeford, Maine 04005

Please make your cheques payable to the NAMA-Relief Fund. St. Joseph’s will keep track of donors and send each of you a receipt.

Meanwhile we have received this update from Nity Jayaraman on the situation near Cuddalore, Tamilnadu, where we have been working with communities threatened by hazardous chemical plants:

We’re all fine here, as are the friends from SIPCOT Cuddalore. The
industrial region witnessed a rise in river water level, and flooding of
certain areas. However, there was no destruction of property, and only one life lost in the flood. The nearby areas in Cuddalore were hit very hard, with entire villages having been wiped out, and many others devastated. the loss of life has been massive. fortunately, the governmental relief efforts in cuddalore have been better than in any other place. there is no dearth of food or clothing at the moment. however, appropriate medical care remains elusive. also, material for rebuilding lives — utensils, foodgrains, stoves and money for rebuilding houses. i’m travelling to cuddalore tomorrow to better understand how we can help in a focused manner. in the meantime, i’m directing all queries to Association for India’s Development and Tamilnadu Science Forum. when the need arises. The Cuddalore monitors have been engaged in relief work, and are slowly getting back to their own lives as well.

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People breathing poison in Cuddalore

For the first time in India the air that people living near industries breathe has been tested for toxic gases. The results confirm local people’s worst fears, say Sipcot Community Health Monitors, who carried out the study under the direction of Denny Larson of Global Community Monitor.

“In nine years I have seen at least 500 results from different places around the world,” says Larson. “SIPCOT, Cuddalore has to be the worst place to breathe, and certainly the worst that I have seen in terms of the kinds and levels of toxic gases in the air. The levels of some of the chemicals are at least 1000 times higher than what we saw in other developing countries like South Africa, Thailand and the Philippines.”

Said Shweta Narayan, coordinator of the Community Environmental Monitoring program, “Children, foetuses and pregnant women are most at risk of exposure. These chemicals can attack children at a very vulnerable stage of development and may, in cases, permanently damage their ability to fight diseases or their mental, physical and sexual development.”

New Report: SIPCOT, Cuddalore, A Global Toxic Hotspot for Air Pollution Toxic Air Monitoring a First for India – Using Community Monitors, Simple Buckets – Download the report here.

CUDDALORE, 17 September, 2004 — Samples of air that SIPCOT residents breathe were found to contain extremely high levels of at least 22 toxic chemicals, including 8 cancer-causing chemicals, according to a first of a kind report released by SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitors. Based on the results, the group has declared SIPCOT, Cuddalore a “Global Toxic Hotspot.” For the first time in India, the air that people living near industries breathe has been tested for toxic gases, such as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and sulphur compounds. The results of five samples taken outside Shasun, Tagros, CUSECS 5 and Asian Paints confirm the worst fears of the villagers that the frequent odour incidents they experience are indicators of chemical pollution from the factories. At least 13 chemicals found are used as raw material in SIPCOT industries.

The report justifies the SIPCOT villagers’ demands for continuous air monitoring, including for toxic gases, an aggressive air pollution elimination program, long-term health monitoring, specialised health care facilities for SIPCOT residents, and a ban on the setting up or expansion of any polluting facility in SIPCOT.

The report titled “Gas Trouble: Air Quality in SIPCOT, Cuddalore” was compiled using samples taken by Community Environmental Monitors from Semmankuppam, Sangolikuppam and Eachangadu villages. The monitors are specially trained in the use of the “Bucket” to take air samples, and in monitoring, reporting and acting on pollution or occupational injury incidents. The training in “Bucket” technology was conducted in March 2004 by Denny Larson of Global Community Monitor. Larson is one of the key persons involved in developing and testing the bucket.

“The Bucket results confirm that SIPCOT is a slow-motion Bhopal. For years, the Pollution Control Board and the Tamilnadu Government have ignored our complaints about nasty odours and our health problems,” said S. Ramanathan, a Community Environmental Monitor from Semmankuppam village. “If the Government fails to do anything even after finding out that the air we breathe has chemicals like benzene, carbon tetrachloride and chloroform, they will be telling the world that they don’t care if we live or die as long as the industries can operate profitably.”

At least 14 of the 22 chemicals, including trichloroethene, carbon tetrachloride, acrolein, methylene chloride and hydrogen sulphide, violate the US Environmental Protection Agency’s safety levels. 1,2-dichloroethane, a cancer-causing chemical that was found in an air sample taken downwind of Tagros Chemicals, exceeded safety levels by a factor of 22,973. Levels of hydrogen sulphide, a gas that smells of rotten eggs, in the air sample taken downwind of CUSECS Pump House No. 5 was 874 times the US EPA safety level.

“I have worked nine years with the bucket and seen at least 500 results from different places around the world. SIPCOT, Cuddalore has to be the worst place to breathe, and certainly the worst that I have seen in terms of the kinds and levels of toxic gases in the air,” said Larson. “The levels of some of the chemicals are at least 1000 times higher than what we saw in other developing countries like South Africa, Thailand and the Philippines.”

Despite the magnitude of the problem, not a single health study has been conducted till date in SIPCOT, Cuddalore. The Pollution Control Board does not monitor for toxic gases in the industrial estate, and what basic data it has on air pollution has never been released to public.

The findings of the report have very troubling implications particularly for women, children and old people who spend all their time within the polluted confines of SIPCOT.

“Children, foetuses and pregnant women are most at risk of exposure. These chemicals can attack children at a very vulnerable stage of development and may, in cases, permanently damage their ability to fight diseases or their mental, physical and sexual development,” said Shweta Narayan, coordinator of the Community Environmental Monitoring program.

Despite the demonstrated lack of capacity of the Pollution Control Board or the Health Department to understand the pollution problem and take action to protect public health, the Government is adding to the pollution load in SIPCOT by allowing more polluting units to come up.

Villagers from Semmankuppam and Sangolikuppam are very unhappy about the setting up of a new company, Pandian Chemicals, in SIPCOT Phase II. The company plans to manufacture 38 tonnes/month of Ammonium Perchlorate, a highly explosive chemical used in rocket fuel. The chemical is a problematic groundwater contaminant that is dangerous even at low levels to foetuses, young children and pregnant women. It can be passed on from mother to child through breast milk, and is known to attack the brain development of the child.

“The people don’t want Pandian Chemicals; the Panchayat doesn’t want it. The company manufactures a deadly explosive, and a chemical that is known to affect children’s health. If the Government cares for people, the project should be dropped. Only clean industries that can provide safe jobs to villagers should be allowed in SIPCOT,” said M. Nizamudeen of FEDCOT.

SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitoring is a project of FEDCOT, Cuddalore District Consumer Organisation, Global Community Monitor and The Other Media.

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Chlorine leak from rogue plant hospitalises 23

A chlorine leak at 6 p.m. on 18 July, 2004, from a pipeline running between Chemplast Sanmar’s chlorine plant and its adjacent fumed silica plant in Mettur Dam, Tamilnadu, sent 23 people to the hospital. More than 50 people are reported to have fainted after inhaling the chlorine fumes. A 22-day old child, and two young girls aged 10 and 13 are among those hospitalised.

A few years ago, shrapnel from an explosion at Chemplast’s fumed silica plant barely missed chemical storage tanks in Chemplast’s neighbouring facilities.

On 11 April, 2004, a contract worker in Birla-owned TANFAC in Cuddalore, was poisoned on the job and subsequently succumbed to his injuries on 30 April. No compensation has been paid to his widow. Rather, the bereaved family is subject to daily harassment by local labour contractors.

On 6 July, 2004, a fire at an endosulfan unit in Kerala-based Hindustan Insecticides Ltd caused a smoke plume that covered more than 250 households. On 9 July, 2004, a boiler explosion at a dyeing unit in Erode, Tamilnadu, killed four workers.

Despite demands by citizens for publication of onsite and offsite emergency plans as required by the Factories Act and the Manufacture, Storage, Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules (1989), regulators have exhibited remarkable restraint in implementing the laws in a bid to protect the corporations.

As the largest private company in the small town, Chemplast is reported to have the district authorities, including the police, under its control. The company’s plans to set up a hazardous PVC factory in Cuddalore, Tamilnadu, was shelved after local residents gathered in numbers to drive the investment out. The PVC factory proposal was given a similarly hostile reception in Krishnapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, where more than 2000 local fishermen and farmers came to protest the investment at a Government-held public hearing.

The factory proposal is pending approval at the Andhra Pradesh Pollution Control Board. The company’s powerful ties locally are evident from the fact that even otherwise independent publications like The Hindu refuse to carry articles about the company’s wrong doings or people’s opposition to the company’s pollution.

More on the Chemplast gas leak as updates arrive.

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