Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Summer festival at Silver Beach

The annual summer festival at Silver Beach starts on 28 May 2008. This frolic continues for five days and ends on 1 June 2008.
A feast to the people of Cuddalore...

Friday, May 23, 2008

A gathering of Cuddalore natives in Chennai

A message from Cuddalore Online group

Second annual meeting of Cuddalore natives in (and around) Chennai will be held on Saturday (24th May). The meet will start with a film screening, followed by a presentation on pollution in SIPCOT Cuddalore and discussions on various issues concerning the town.

Hope you all know the level of pollution in Cuddalore.. According to a recent report, people of Cuddalore have 2000 times higher risk of getting cancer..

2000 times higher cancer risk for SIPCOT Cuddalore Residents: NEERI

Attend the meeting and support the ongoing struggle against pollution in Cuddalore

For more details contact:
Nityanand - 9444082401
Madhu - 9894915969

Date: 24-May-2008
Time: 6:00 PM

Venue:
CEM Office, 42A, 1st Floor,
5th Avenue, (Near Besant Nagar beach)
Besant Nagar

Reaching CEM Office:

Click to enlarge

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Toxic Chemicals in SIPCOT Cuddalore and its impact around the world

This article might be a shock to you if you believe that the ill effects of toxics chemicals released in SIPCOT Cuddalore is confined to people living in SIPCOT area alone. When it can affect people in US and UK consuming fish from Cuddalore, will it spare you living in Cuddalore town ??

Toxic Chemicals Are Maiming Thousands Around the World - AlterNet
By Aquene Freechild, Environmental Health Fund. Posted May 16, 2008

Over time, our bodies lose their ability to cope with toxic chemicals, and each exposure has a more severe effect.

I don't know how anyone survives there.

My first visit to the SIPCOT Chemicals Hub in Cuddalore, India could have appeared deceptively pleasant to outside eyes. It's a beautiful day and there's a good breeze as we drive past the welcome sign for SIPCOT. The air in some places seems far cleaner than the air in nearby Chennai. In some spots it smells sweet, in others, like opening a bottle of ibuprofen -- an antiseptic, medicinal smell.

That is until my throat gets sore, I feel a bit nauseated and my guide starts retching. My guide, a local community environmental monitor finally recovers with bloodshot eyes. A headache follows and I begin to wonder how anyone manages to work in these facilities. SIPCOT Chemical Hub sandwiches its picturesque fishing villages in between rusting hulks of chemical factories. The court ordered waste channels are overflowing with an eerily pale blue green liquid, cattle graze not far away.

I visited the Cuddalore chemical hub, 2.5 hours south of Chennai on my most recent trip to India this January. I was in India to meet with the survivors of the world's worst industrial disaster, in which more than 8,000 people were gassed to death nearly overnight in 1984 by a Union Carbide chemical leak. Water contamination and long term effects of the toxic gas have killed 15,000 more since that December night. Cuddalore is a case study of how growing chemicals manufacture in the Global South for western and local markets is setting the stage for future Bhopals. While major consumer markets from New Delhi to New York rely on chemical manufacturing from impoverished communities in the Global South, toxics come back concentrated in products and food produced in the same impoverished communities.

The SIPCOT Chemicals Hub is currently an 8km stretch of pharmaceutical, explosive, dye and pesticide manufacturers. If it is completed as planned, it will stretch more than 38 kilometers, possibly trapping thousands of people on a strip of land between the Kaveri River and the sea that is less than 1km wide. One of my guides, Center for Environmental Monitoring organizer Shweta Narayan, works to keep this already toxic hotspot from reaching the boiling point and to help protect the local population from further egregious harm.

What might be a one-time chemical exposure for a healthy visitor, is a daily sensitization to highly toxic pollutants for the people living nearby. The villagers fish the polluted waters, and breathe belches of black and yellow smoke that smell like pickled cabbage, rotting carcass, sulfur gas or pesticides depending on the factory.

Victory Chemicals is making its toxic and likely radioactive sludge into bricks to give to villagers. But they doesn't find many takers. The bricks now lie dumped near the riverbank, crumbling into the water and from there into the body of a plant, a fish, a human being. Factory workers come out and stand close to the car, arms crossed, hoping harsh stares will generate enough force to push our concern out of the way. The District Environmental Engineer is called. He tries to blow off the claim that the waste is toxic. When that fails, he shrilly professes total impotence to address contamination complaints, before issuing a command for clean up; which all present know is destined to be ignored.

Over time, the body loses its ability to cope with these chemicals designed to confound our natural systems, and each exposure gives a more and more severe effect.

A chemical that will have no visible effect on an adult, can have catastrophic effects on the developing fetus and the young child -- dulling the mind, triggering birth defects, and setting the stage for autism, asthma, allergies and cancer. What may only make an adult nauseated, will cripple the dreams of a child and of a family for a healthy future; a whole and better life.

In the U.S., epidemics of cancer, autism, asthma, and reproductive birth defects in baby boys are sky high. Yet the air quality is far better in the U.S. than in most Indian cities. In India garbage piles are burnt spewing whole incinerator's worth of dioxin into the common air. Americans benefit from better environmental standards and enforcement for vehicle and factory emissions. Both India and U.S. have addressed the air quality problems of their cities -- particularly the places where the well-to-do live -- by exporting the sources of pollution -- Texas; Louisiana; Gary, Indiana; and the Port of Los Angeles are cases in point. The urban poor in either country would recognize these lit up refineries, chemical factories and power plants through the stinging fog.

Childhood cancer increased .6% a year from 1975-2002 according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. One in almost 7 women will suffer from breast cancer in their lifetimes; hormonally active toxins may be determining cancer outcomes for our children before they are even born.

We are just starting to see public discussion of the science of how certain chemicals attach to our DNA and are passed down from generation to generation. No longer is our chemical inheritance limited to in utero exposure and breast milk -- fathers are now known to contribute the effects of their chemical exposures as well. This widespread low level toxic contamination has been building its biological trap for more than four generations. In the U.S. and U.K., one in 250 boys is born with a malformed penis; one in 200 with autism.

In a U.K. city the size of Chennai, that would be 208 little boys that will need corrective surgery shortly after birth. But in Chennai, many would never be able to afford it. It would be about 250 little autistic boys who will appear normal at birth, but may never learn to speak, to read, or to use the toilet.

SIPCOT's pollution could well affect your children and grandchildren. Who eats this fish caught in Cuddalore? I would guess that Chennai is one of the markets, and the best fish likely end up in markets in Delhi and London. The chemicals SIPCOT is choking on, or the chemicals from hubs just like it around the world, find their way to you -- though your food, settling on crops and concentrating in the dark tissue in fish.

This horror of low-level maiming is the cause for my wonderment, "How will my friends in the villages surrounding SIPCOT survive?" An enthusiastic community activist Arul Selvam informed us that SIPCOT was founded in 1984. Only 2 generations have been exposed to this growing stench so far. The teachers report that the children are far slower than in other schools; many chemicals used here are known to stunt mental growth, including those emited from a factory adjacent to the school. How can the grassroots organize when their very minds are being altered? There is no other option.

We, those who consume the products from the chemical hubs, must fight the polluters in solidarity with those most affected. We can change our own habits to cut off the market for toxic products at the ankles. But even after undertaking this, we cannot simply abandon the children in chemical hubs like SIPCOT -- our future leaders -- to the excruciating pain of cancer death, the stabbing humiliation from learning disabilities and the resulting teasing, the grief of being deprived the opportunity to become a mother or father.

The idea of detox medicine and facilities for SIPCOT's poisoned residents could be called a pipe dream. Industrial poisoning is an abandoned step child of modern medicine. Those who strive to treat poisoning with environmental medicine, ayurveda, Chinese traditional medicine, yoga, nutritional changes and support are scorned by the medical establishment. Treatment for basic poisoning is denied in this way to the wealthiest clients of the American medical system. Those who are poisoned are too frequently sacrificed at the altar of medical ego. Worse, basic medical care is beyond the reach of so many around SIPCOT, and around the world. Access to medical care declines along with income for the poisoned fisherfolk. What can we hope to offer?

The Sambhanva Clinic in Bhopal, India has found yoga positions and organic herb growing at home, offer relief to Bhopal gas and water poisoning victims. One of the reasons these techniques are threatening to conventional physicians is their very accessibility for all, their inexpensive and therefore unprofitable nature. Integrated medical treatment of industrial poisoning? There are many such good ideas, many shoulds, woulds and coulds that can turn one poisoned person's hell into a renewed hope for life. Those who chose to take the first step and act in support of the SIPCOT communities -- like the members of Youth for Social Change in Madras, are working an invisible magic, setting the stage for larger changes.

I dream not only of stopping the expansion of SIPCOT and its current polluters, but also of seeing effective treatment for those already poisoned there. Like any other daunting challenge, it can be simplified to the happiness you are creating in one other person's life and also your own. The beneficiary of this work I imagine, is a child who can smile without a cleft lip, a mother who can breathe enough to complete her daily work, a father who is proudly able to conceive. When I speak about other Bhopals and the ongoing chemical experiment we are all part of, I will describe this perfectly normal child -- a dream, a vision, and decreasing probability.

Currently exposure to extremely common chemicals, like 2,4 D -- found in Scott's Weed n' Feed, has no long term treatment protocol in the U.S. Those suffering from long term effects of toxic exposure must plow through a revolving door of specialists and disparate alternative medical practicioners spending thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours chasing relief. If environmental physicians coordinated with integrative medicine practitioners to share knowledge and treatment protocols internationally perhaps simple detox practices could be made available in SIPCOT and hundreds of communities like it.

It may take 20 years for such a vision to materialize. I hope it will take less time to see real pollution control implemented in Cuddalore. In standing up against toxic trespass, the imposition of unwanted chemicals unto our bodies, local organizers are working for the fundamental right to health and for the smile of a perfectly normal, healthy child.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Bus stops without shelter

Post Office bus stop on the south side Barathi Road is without shelter for almost two years. The old bus stop shelter was demolished when sidewalk was laid here. But a shelter not constructed even two years after the completion of the sidewalk work. People wait for buses in hot sun and rain.


Similarly GH bus stop on the north side of Hospital Road is also without a shelter. Though the actual stopping is some 50 meters towards west, people wait for buses straight opposite to west gate of the hospital. So buses stop here. Unlike the Post Office stopping cases, I never seen a shelter in this bus stop.

Sand heaped up

Even after broadening the Hospital Road vehicles are not able make use of the full width of the road as sand heaped up either side of the road. Two wheelers are the most affected as buses and other large vehicles rushes in the available space.


Encroachments reappear

Encroachments reappear in all parts of the town after they were removed few weeks back. Encroachment eviction is greatly influenced by political powers. They is no surprise that encroachments by ruling party members are never cleared.


The photo above was taken in Padali theater road, a couple of days after the eviction drive. The first thatch roof is put on after the eviction, while the second in the picture was not even cleared. As I have written an year back trucks find it difficult to enter Padali theater road to unload goods at Panpari market because of these encroachments. This quiet often leads to traffic congestion in Lawrence Road.

It is said that the eviction drive is generally conducted once in a year. But this time it is said to have been conducted after a two years gap. Why should not we appoint an authority to keep a continuous check on the encroachments (in roads and in other public places - esp. lakes and river beds) and clear it immediately. Understanding the amount of trouble it creates in towns and cities, complaints relating to encroachment should be processed and proceeded on by this authority. The authority should be made liable if the complaints are not verified and if eviction is not carried out within a given time frame.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

“Have a re-look at coastal projects”

“Have a re-look at coastal projects” - The Hindu

A.V.Ragunathan

Environmentalists flay “single window clearance” concept

Industrial proposals are being cleared within 30 days under the system

Chemical units on the coast, in the event of floods and tsunami, will cause havoc


CUDDALORE: Environmental activists, ecologists and consumer organisations have raised their voice against the “single window clearance” concept for sanctioning industries, particularly in the coastal areas.

In the aftermath of the tsunami, it has become imperative on the part of the policy-makers and the government to spare thoughts for protecting the fragile coastal eco-system. Hence, they demand scrapping of the single window system and reverting to the earlier practice of scrutinising the entire gamut of issues involved, according to Rajesh Rangarajan of the Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG) that has taken up the post-tsunami environmental restoration projects in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

These issues were discussed at the meeting of the representatives of the coastal community and self-help groups, convened here recently by the CAG and the Cuddalore District Consumer Protection Organisation.

Mr. Rangarajan told The Hindu earlier that any new project was vetted by at least a dozen departments but under the single window system the industrial proposals were being cleared within 30 days.

In the first place the government should decide whether the industries should be located in the coastal areas, thereby turning the sea into a pollution sink for discharging untreated effluents.

It was a matter of concern that even the Coastal Zone Regulation Act was amended to facilitate the location of industries on the coast.

When the Cheyyur power project ran into problem owing to public outcry the planners were targeting the ecologically sensitive Marakkanam area for shifting the project.

In such an eventuality, the sand dunes at Marakkanam that were the natural safeguard against tidal waves would be the first casualty. The CAG was advocating sector-specific environment impact assessment to evolve a set of templates to be applied all over, he said.

The meeting took stock of the government move to concentrate a whole lot of industries - chemical, textile, oil refinery, etc. - along the Cuddalore coast.

It sought to empower the coastal community with information on such ventures and on how to protect the ecology as well as their livelihood.

Executive secretary of the consumer forum M. Nizamudeen said that the chemical units on the coast, in the event of floods and tsunami, would cause havoc to humanity and ecology. None of the projects in the pipeline seemed to have taken cognizance of the threat, he said.

Floating objects create a flutter in Silver Beach

Floating objects create a flutter - The Hindu

Special Correspondent

CUDDALORE: Three tubular plastic objects found floating in the sea at Silver Beach here caused flutter among the visitors on Monday. The bomb disposal squad reached the spot and seized the objects. After scrutiny the personnel declared the objects non-explosives. On opening the objects, they found thin copper sheets (with certain geometrical patterns and letters inscribed on them) tucked in.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sea erodes pristine Tamil Nadu beach

Sea erodes pristine Tamil Nadu beach - Thaindian

Cuddalore (Tamil Nadu), May 11 (IANS) Even as deliberations to finalise the draft of a coastal zone management (CZM) are underway, one of its vital issues - seafront erosion - has hit this quiet town, officials said Sunday. Badly mauled by the 2004 Asian tsunami, Cuddalore’s 57 km-long beach, second only to the Marina beach in state capital Chennai, 180 km to the north, is in danger of losing long stretches to the brackish waters, officials told IANS.

Collector Rajendra Ratnoo, presently on holiday in Rajasthan said by phone that he was aware of the problem and “it worried him”.

“Though the relevant files are not in my possession at this point in time, I am worried by this issue. The administration is looking at various options to stop the ’sea’s landward invasion’,” said Ratnoo.

Locals said that sea water had gobbled up Cuddalore’s scenic “Silver Beach” in some places up to 40 metres.

“The water level has increased so much that almost the entire cement-concrete benches lining the beach and the electric lamp-posts are standing in almost two feet of water. In some places water has come inland up to 40 metres. If this goes on, one day our children may be left with no beach to play on,” said K. Rajeshwari, 29, watching her toddlers playing in the sand close to the water.

“The real culprits to be blamed are certain departments of the state and central governments which allowed land reclamation in certain parts here. When man invades the sea, nature always retaliates unpredictably,” said V. Pasupathi, a retired government official pointing to the greenish expanse of the Bay of Bengal.

Acting collector and district revenue officer S. Natarajan said that while the cause for erosion were under investigation, “there is no immediate cause for alarm”.

“This phenomenon probably began during the Nargis weather system that threatened us briefly. As a matter of precaution, we have posted more policemen to prevent bathing during tides. Further, discussions are being held to assess the problem and the methodology to tackle it will be finalised when the collector returns as there is no immediate cause for alarm,” said Natarajan.

Over nine hamlets in the northern suburbs of capital Chennai have already been lost to the sea following reclamation to augment port facilities during the last decade, according to state government’s statistics.

“One solution could be increasing coastal vegetation to protect the seafront. Our study shows very clearly that areas with trees suffered less destruction than areas without trees,” Finn Danielsen, a Denmark based director of the Nordic Agency for Development and Ecology had said in a report co-authored by 13 international scientists drawn from various countries including India and Sri Lanka following the tsunami.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Sea water surges in

Sea water surges in many of the coastal villages in Cuddalore. This has been happening for over a month. As a result, many of the palm and coconut trees in coastal hamlets like Devanampattinam are uprooted and washed away by waves.

Uprooted coconut trees

During the recent new moon day, waves were strong enough to cover half of the sand scape in beach.


As sand in Silver Beach is being eroded away, the cement floor which was laid before tsunami is now visible. Huge crowd gather in beach to see this concrete floor appearing again.

The erosion is more pronounced at the north end of the beach than at the south end. Water has reached till the rows of lamp posts. In a few days time these lamp posts will be washed away by waves. However, local fishermen say this is usual during this time of the year and express hope that the water will recede in a couple of weeks.

Video:

video

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Dawn Fest 2008

To know more about Dawn Fest and about mangrove forest in Pichavaram, visit the following link to district administration's official website.

A DAWN FEST AT PICHAVARAM

Showcasing Pichavaram

Showcasing Pichavaram - The Hindu

KALYANI CANDADE

The Dawn Fest seeks to place the vast lake and its mangroves on the global eco-tourism map.

PHOTO: C. VENKATACHALAPATHY
An exercise in harmony: At the Dawn Fest 2008 at Chinnavaikkal.

Rajendra Ratnoo, the Collector of Cuddalore, is a man with a mission: to put Pichavaram on the global eco-tourism map.

Ratnoo’s strategy is simple — and brilliant. “The aim is to showcase the potential of Pichavaram to relevant and concerned stakeholders — the administration, policy makers, the tourism industry, media, and the locals,” he says. The Dawn Fest was a conference with a difference: a weekend of thoughtful, passionate and creative showcasing of the tourism potential of Chidambaram and Pichavaram; bringing together the history, the cultural heritage and the ecology of the place.
Leitmotif

Fittingly, the highlight of the event was a visit to the island of Chinnavaikkal, flanked by the backwaters on one side and the Bay of Bengal on the other. This was the leitmotif of the Dawn Fest: to watch the sun paint the sky at dawn — to strains of mellifluous music and to the salute of suryanamaskar on the beach… This was eco-tourism, bringing together the students of Annamalai University with their music and their yoga and knowledge of marine biology, the people of Killai Panchayat, with their boats and their knowledge of the island and the mangroves and the water, and us, the practice-run tourists…

Later, as we drifted past the mangroves in boats, students of marine biology briefed us on the mangroves and answered questions. Considered one of the healthiest occurrences in the world, the Pichavaram mangroves cover an area of over 400 hectares in the Vellar-Coleroon estuarine complex. An intricate system of canals, channels and creeks create myriad islands, and a unique ecosystem that spans three mangrove wetland Reserve Forests : Killai, Pichavaram and Pichavaram Extension area. We floated past vast stretches of brilliant green rooted firmly in shallow water, with their strange aerial roots growing down from high above us, and their unique reproduction system that enables the fruit to float away to colonise new areas — and, when the time is right, put down roots and send out shoots…
Increased awareness

The water was clean and bright, much cleaner than the mangroves we had seen in Goa or in the Andamans. Ratnoo is happy that we noticed. Yes, we had a cleaning drive and we are educating the local people, he beams. There is still much to be done, but the beginning is encouraging.

Led by the dynamic and forward-thinking Ravichandran and inspired by Ratnoo, the people of Killai Panchayat are extremely enthusiastic and hopeful about the concept of eco-tourism in the area. The cultural evening they hosted for us was an eye-opener, showcasing the wealth of talent and skill in native dance and martial art forms, as well as the effort that went into making the show memorable. Karagam, Kolattam, Kalari, all seem well and alive among the people of Killai. The accompanying commentary was also telling. “You can bind our feet and chain our hands and burden us with a load on our head, but we will master the load and dance with it, that is the nature of Woman,” proclaims the voice on the mike with vehemence as the girls dance the Karagam without a care in the world.
Hope ahead

Only the tsunami boats are a grim reminder of their struggle to remake their lives. But they are hopeful: Ratnoo is confident that eco tourism can supplement their income substantially through revenue from serving as guides, taking tourists boating and other allied opportunities, without taking them away from being fishermen.

Dawn Fest comes to an end, but the wheels have been set in motion. And if Ratnoo has his way, Pichavaram will soon be one more place where everybody understands the meaning of low-volume, minimum impact, responsible travel.

Shoring up Pichavaram as tourist centre

Shoring up Pichavaram as tourist centre - The Hindu

A.V.Ragunathan

“Dawn Fest 2008” kicks off to a colourful start

— Photo:C. Venkatachalapathy
PROMOTING TOURISM: “Dawn Fest 2008” being celebrated at Chinnavaikkal at Pichavaram in Cuddalore district on Sunday.

CUDDALORE: The two-day “Dawn Fest 2008” got off to a colourful start in the backwaters of Pichavaram near Chidambaram on Saturday. District Collector Rajendra Ratnoo, who inaugurated the fete, said the myriad hues of the sky before sunrise in the backdrop of the mangroves were a sight to behold.

Mr. Ratnoo told reporters that the aim of the event, conceptualised by him and funded by the Tamil Nadu Tourism Department, was to showcase Pichavaram as an eco-tourism destination to the stakeholders of the tourism industry such as tour operators, tourism consultants and hoteliers.

He said Cuddalore district held out rich tourism potential of various nature including heritage and pilgrimage tourism (as it housed renowned temples such as Padaleeswarar temple, Natarajar temple and Hayagrivar temple), classical art forms (being promoted through the famed Natyanjali festival and Annamalai University), and beach tourism along the 54-km coastal line, including Chinnavaikkal, Thazhanguda and Silver beach.

The sunrise could be viewed from the Chinnavaikkal islet replete with lush coconut groves that could be easily accessed by boat ride in the backwaters. The islet was illuminated for the occasion and filled with strains of classical music presented by the students of the Music Department of Annamalai University.

While the guests were sailing the boats in the early hours on Sunday the students of the Centre for Advanced Study in Marine Biology, Annamalai University, who accompanied them explained the ecological importance of the mangroves that were home to large number of migratory birds, sources of livelihood to thousands of fishermen and Iruals, and bioshield at the time of natural disasters such as cyclone and the tsunami.

Pichavaram used to attract migratory birds such as seagull from Mongolia in April and after a brief sojourn the winged visitors would return to their native place. The Pichavaram area is now awash with dense colonies of seagulls.

As the sun was rising, the students of the Centre for Yoga Studies, Annamalai University, struck various postures or asanas, signifying paying obeisance to the mighty nature.

The evening was filled with cultural events, mostly in folk forms such as thappattam, karagattm, silambattam, fire show and Irulas’ kolattam.

A handful of foreign tourists too enjoyed the occasion.

Discussion about underground drainage construction

Currently there is discussion about underground drainage construction work at Cuddalore in Cuddalore Online group. Please take an active part in this discussion.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Underground drainage construction - Part 2

In some parts of the town like in Govindasamy Nagar, new road was laid just before the starting the underground drainage work. Like many, I believe this is not just a lack of coordination between the departments, but done intentionally to loot away the fund allocated by doing a poor quality work, which anyhow will be covered up once the drainage works begins.

In some streets like in Periyanayagi Amman Kovil Street, the road laying work has started before the pipe laying work for the underground drainage is complete. As a result the new road is damaged as the drainage work progresses. It has been more than five years since road was laid last time in this street. Can't they wait for a couple of months ? Isn't this intentional ??

Road laying work in Periyanayagi amman kovil street in Thirupadhiripuliyur

Underground drainage construction - Part 1

Most of the roads in Cuddalore are in bad shape owing to the underground drainage construction work progressing at snail's pace. Workers dug out pits and leave them uncovered for several weeks together before the next stage of work starts. They never bother to spread out the dug out sand after laying the pipes and construction man holes. As a result huge heaps of sand is accumulated on roads hindering the free flow of traffic.

Underground drainage work at Chinna Vaaniar street

Underground drainage construction series

I feel that it is impossible to capture everything that is going around in Cuddalore in the name of 'underground drainage construction' in a single article. So I will be writing a series of articles about the work in Cuddalore.

To my knowledge, irregularities and corruption behind this drainage work is not reported by other medias. So input from other sources are minimal.

It would be of great help if you can share about the irregularities and the politics behind the work in your locality. You can write your views as a comment or send a mail to cuddaloreonline [at] gmail [dot] com.