Sunday, June 04, 2006

News reports from Sipcot Area Community Monitors

Fire at Indag; TNPCB not to be found

A fire at the premises of the now-abandoned Coromandel Indag factory in SIPCOT, Cuddalore, spread thick white smoke and panic among local residents. Lakshmi (35), wife of Rajiv, reportedly fainted, upon which the villagers alerted the SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitors. Lakshmi was admitted to Surendra Hospital. The breeze blowing from the Southeast to the Northwest carried the smoke from the fire as far away as the Cuddalore Old Town, about 3 km away.

SACEM estimates that the fire started at around 4.30 p.m. “It was very less at the time, and not many people knew. There was not much of a flame. There was a low blue flame, but a lot of smoke. There was an acid-like smell. We couldn’t go near the smoke,” said SIPCOT monitor S. Ramanathan, who reached the spot by 6 p.m. and alerted the Fire Services. The fire tenders that arrived by 8 p.m. eventually put the fire out by 9 p.m. SACEM has taken an air sample using the bucket.

According to Ramanathan, the Fire Service personnel were hesitant to use water because they did not know the nature of the chemical that was burning and did not want to aggravate the situation. TNPCB Assistant Engineer said he was on leave, and the District Environmental Engineer was not reachable. The factory is under lock-out, and the premises are under the control of the Court. A police complaint has been filed.

Besides Indag, hazardous wastes are stored in several other closed units including JK Pharma, Maruti Synthetics, Oswali Chemicals, Maruti Labs, Kumaran Carbonates, Pentafour and Tamilnadu Pigments. As early as in January, 2005, SACEM brought the matter of hazardous wastes stored in SIPCOT factories to the notice of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee and the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board. But no action has been taken on the matter by either.

A copy of the report titled “Groundtruths” is available at:

Industries continue to poison Cuddalore
This news item contains a detailed tabulation of pollution patrol report.

Accident at Pioneer Miyagi; One worker seriously injured

Cuddalore, 28 May 2006: 35 year old J. Kaliamurthy of Periya Karaikadu sustained a severe head injury and fractured both hands after falling from a height on the third floor of an unapproved construction within Pioneer Miyagi Chemicals. The mishap took place at 7:45 am on 28 May, 2006. Mr. Kaliamurthy’s friend rushed him to Krishna Hospital with no assistance from the company. SIPCOT monitors who were at the spot within 30 minutes said none of the company officials accompanied the victim, and worked continued apace even after the accident. The victim was not given first aid in the company, and he was able to reach the hospital after a car obligingly stopped on the highway to take him. SACEM confirms that construction work resumed on 29 May. The DEE has been informed of this development as well.

SACEM informed the District Environment Engineer (DEE) of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and the Deputy Inspector of Factories immediately. The TNPCB official confirmed that Pioneer did not have a Consent to Establish for the construction in question. According to Mr. Karthikeyan, the DEE of TNPCB, the company was issued a letter directing it to not engage in any construction activity until clearance was given. The company chose to ignore the letter and continued to build. The Plant Supervisor Mr. M. Ramaiah also confirmed that the company did not have a Consent to Establish from the TNPCB.

DEE along with the SACEM members inspected the site of the accident, accompanied by Mr. Ramaiah. According to SACEM, the construction site was strewn with rods and pipes, and the conditions and work practices were inherently unsafe. The third floor of the unit was flooded with water, increasing the vulnerability of workers. The DEE has promised to take strict action against the unit for violating the Board's order. The Deputy Inspector of Factories has also promised to look into the matter.

However, going by previous experience, the DEE’s actions and recommendations will not be followed by the Board. If the Board’s track record is anything to go by, Pioneer Miyagi’s construction schedule will suffer a slight delay, but the company’s illegal construction will be legalized by the Board without levying even a token fine for having commenced construction without permission.

No new construction can be undertaken without permission from both the TNPCB and the Inspector of Factories. However, the TNPCB routinely condones illegal construction, especially for companies that are politically well connected. Recently, it accorded post-facto clearance to Tagros Chemicals – a notorious polluter and one of the more unsafe units in SIPCOT – after the company had illegally constructed an entire factory and operated the factory for several years. The company had been ordered shut for a month, after which the company resumed operations upon receipt of post-facto clearance.

Pioneer Miyagi manufactures gelatin from cow and camel bones for export, among other places, to Japan. Known as a notorious polluter, the company’s emissions smell of rotting carcasses. SACEM members have also identified Pioneer as a routine discharger or illegal effluents through streams and illegal channels to the River Uppanar.

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