Friday, February 27, 2009

Double-tumbler system still in practice in Cuddalore district

Untouchability still practised: CPI(M) - The Hindu

Special Correspondent

Party gives representation to Cuddalore Collector

Double-tumbler system in tea shops at Nallathur

Graveyards allotted to Dalits encroached upon

CUDDALORE: The practice of untouchability against the Dalits is still prevalent in certain pockets in Cuddalore district.

A study team of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), comprising district secretary S.Dhanasekaran, union secretary G.Madhavan, block secretary K.Kandasamy and Untouchability Eradication Front organiser S.Durairaj, came out with the findings recently.

In a representation given to Collector Rajendra Ratnoo, the team noted that the Dalits were still discriminated against in terms of access to community centres and marriage halls.

For instance, at Nallathur, double-tumbler system in tea shops was still in practice.

Barber shops turned down the Dalits and even push carts owned by the panchayat for carrying the deceased to graveyard were denied to them.

They could not gain entry into any of the five temples in the village. Moreover, the graveyards allotted to the Dalits at Periyakanganankuppam in Cuddalore block and Periya Kappankulam in Vriddhchalam block were encroached upon.

Hence, the Dalits had to bury the dead in the vicinity of their habitations.

Therefore, the study team called upon the district administration to earmark separate graveyards for the Dalits and also secure the places from possible encroachments.

It also called for suitable action against those who were indulging in such discriminatory practices.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Chidambaram Natyanjali begins

Natyanjali from today - The Hindu

CUDDALORE: The five-day Natyanjali festival will begin at Chidambaram Natarajar temple on Monday evening. Classical dance forms such as Bharatanatynam, Odissi and Kuchupudi will be featured.

Artists from across the country and abroad will participate in the annual event.

Performances will be staged from 5.30 p.m. to midnight every day, according to organisers of the event.

Natyanjali begins with fanfare - The Hindu

CUDDALORE: The five-day Natyanjali festival got off to a colourful start at the Natarajar temple at Chidambaram on Monday evening.

The takeover of the temple administration by the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department from the Podhu Dikshithars has not deterred the Natyanjali Trust from going ahead with the annual event. The Department has given permission for the festival and arranged for police protection, according to K. Sivakumar, Executive Officer of the temple. The Sangeeth Natak Akademi, New Delhi, the South Zone Cultural Centre, the Neyveli Lignite Corporation, Annamalai University and City Union Bank Ltd have lent a helping hand to the trust.

Jayant Kasthuar, secretary of the Akademi, who inaugurated the festival, told The Hindu that ever since the festival started in 1981, his organisation was supporting the trust in its endeavour to propagate the classical dance forms.

A.K. Natarajan and A. Sambandam, trust president and secretary, representatives of the Podhu Dikshithars and Joint Commissioner (HR & CE) N. Thirumagal took part.

The programmes will go on from 5.30 p.m. to midnight, with a time slot of 20 minutes-one hour allotted to every artist or troupe.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Raising a stink on the toxic peninsula

Raising a stink on the toxic peninsula - ExpressBuzz

G Babu Jayakumar
First Published : 21 Feb 2009 10:45:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 21 Feb 2009 10:55:10 AM IST

Marital alliance with outsiders is a difficult proposition for these villagers. Cocking their noses, prospective in-laws just take to their heels if at all they land in any of the 20 villages with a marriage proposal for their son or daughter, as the stench is just unbearable. It hits even those cruising along the highway (NH 45-A) all through the 8 km stretch, on which the Cuddalore SIPCOT Chemical Estate is located, and the local people have been living with the strange and pungent odours since 1984 when the factories started springing up.

However, for the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), there is nothing amiss with the environment nor is there any reason for penalising the factories for polluting the air, or for the matter, water and land. It is a diffe­rent matter that the TNPCB office, which was originally located within the estate, was shifted one fine morning to Cuddalore town, a few km away — reportedly because the staff could not put up with the foul smell.

But the cavalier attitude of TNPCB officials spurred the people — whose real troubles began in 1982 when land acquisition for the industrial estate project was launched — into action and they started making noises, of course, to no avail.

With the foul odours drawing the attention of social and environmental activists like Nityanand Jayaraman, they raised a stink by inviting the Indian People’s Tribunal in Mumbai to hold a public hearing when yet another factory was proposed to be set up in the estate. That was in 2002.

It was then people like Shweta Narayan realised the local people, despite raising their voice against the managements of the factory, were not able to present their cases to the authorities, particularly TNPCB, with proper scientific evidence. Since instances of toxic waste release into the air and the Uppanar River on the estate’s eastern periphery were not documented methodically, the factories got away with them, what with the TNPCB not evincing interest in pulling up the big firms that owned these industrial units.

So, the environmentalists took upon themselves the task of training local activists, who had been waging a war without a focus, on various aspects of ecological protection. A batch of 35 people was first given training in water sampling in December 2003 and then another 12 persons were taught about air sampling in March 2004. The interaction between the local people, who found themselves caught in a ‘chemical peninsula’ (as one of them described it) and unequipped to fight the might of the corporate world, and the environmentalists led to the formation of the Community Environmental Monitoring group.

The barefoot environmentalists, having gained knowledge in the scientific aspects of monitoring the ecology, declared a war against pollution with Shweta providing them supp­ort from Chennai, 200 km away. Day and night, the monitors kept a vigil, looking for violations of environmental norms and also deliberating the release of waste into the river, which is still used by the people for fishing, and also in the air. They also evoked the provisions of the Right to Information Act to know the actions taken by the authorities.

Though only six of the trained persons are fully into monitoring — they eke their livelihood through other means — now, the others who underwent the training also help them out in the work with the entire local community providing them tip offs and alerts.

In January 2005, the six persons, G K Amirthalingam, T Arulselvam, J Parasuraman, S Pugazhenthi, S Ramanthan and S Sivasankar, along with Shweta, presented a comprehensive report ‘Groundtruths: Status of Hazardous Wastes and Pollution in SIPCOT Chemical Estate, Cuddalore’ to the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee with a view to throwing light on the functioning of the factories. The report highlighted the various violations of hazardous waste regulations and Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.

Subsequently, the local monitors made repeated representations pointing out specific cases of violations to the TNPCB, police and the district collector, besides the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee. However, nothing was done to change the ground situation in the chemical estate, where every law is flouted with impunity, the monitors say.

Despite having the feeling that they are waging a losing battle against the polluters of their environment, the community soldiered on without letting down their vigil and the report ‘Goundtruths II: Status of Hazardous Wastes and Pollution in SIPCOT Chemical Estate, Cuddalore’ was published in December 2008.

Groundtruths II, however, presents a frightening picture, detailing how the TNPCB is brazen and callous in its attitude. It points to the lack of political will to implement the law and how the industries continue to pollute the environment. Yet the green warriors have not given up their fight.


Vignettes of a protest

Shweta Narayan spotted a lorry carrying barrels of some substance passing through Cuddalore on January 23, 2008 during peak hours. The driver said he had no papers of the substance he was transporting. But company officials said it was Aldehyde.

IIT Madras and TNPCB tested samples of the substance and reported it as ‘toxic waste’, highly inflammable. Where was the toxic waste dumped? How many people’s health it affected? No one knows. No action has been taken so far by the authorities against the company officials, she says.

Recalling that evening at the Cuddalore police station, Shweta says not a single government official was sympathetic to her. In fact, the way they looked at her for being a woman was degrading, she says.

Some ground truths

Of the 34 industries, now in operation inside the Cuddalore Chemical Estate, at least eight do not have a valid ‘Consent to Establish’ and 22 of them are operating without a proper license under Clean Air and Water Acts. At least 17 of them do not have a valid authorisation under the Hazardous Waste Rules and five of the seven units that require Coastal Regulation Zone clearance have not obtained it.

It is mandatory for certain categories of industries to conduct Environmental Impact Assessment and obtain clearances from the Central Government and TNPCB before commencing construction. In SIPCOT five instances of illegal construction was brought to the notice of TNPCB in the past two years but no action has ever been taken against the errant company officials.

Concern at overexploitation of groundwater in Cuddalore

Concern at overexploitation of groundwater in Cuddalore - The Hindu

Seminar on groundwater management held

CUDDALORE: Because of the over exploitation of groundwater, Cuddalore is facing the imminent threat of water shortage. The recharge of groundwater and the suction ratio is 1:10 and it indicates the gravity of the situation, according to the joint findings of the Indian Institute of Public Administration and the Federation of All Residents' Welfare Association.

Resolution passed

In a seminar on groundwater management organised here, a resolution was passed urging the authorities to take all out measures to safeguard groundwater level and the aquifer.

It alleged that the units in SIPCOT Industrial Estate were unauthorisedly drawing 10 million litres of groundwater a day.

The government would rather advise the units to get their water requirements from the sea.

The government should also enter into an agreement with the prospective units to the effect that no groundwater would be tapped.

It noted that for prospecting one tonne of lignite the Neyveli Lignite Corporation was pumping out 10 tonnes of water.

Recycling water

It suggested putting the water to profitable purposes and recycling the used water. It voiced concern over the seepage of untreated effluents into the groundwater that resulted in various ailments among the residents, such as skin diseases, kidney failure and lung infection. Studies had revealed that the hydrogen sulphide content in groundwater was in excess of the permissible limit. Therefore, the seminar called for urgent measures to improve the groundwater table and to avert any possible contamination.

As a first step it must insist upon adoption of drip irrigation in the 15 km radius from Cuddalore, construction of checkdams across the Gedilam and the Pennaiyar to curtail the runoff into the sea, and to build minor reservoirs and pump in fresh water through big pipes into the ground so as to replenish the underground water level.

Sea water incursion

It further said that because of the sea water incursion into cultivable land the soil quality had suffered. Just by applying gypsum on the soil surface would not solve the problem.

Therefore, it called for evolving scientific methods to remove salinity in the soil.

Those who participated included R.Ranganathan, president, M.Marudhavanan, general secretary of the Federation, N.Rangaramanujam, district president of the Institute and K.Elangovan, BSNL official.

Discharge from chemical plants is a serious threat to coastal areas and its hinterland

Marine pollution a serious threat: TNPCB chairman - The Hindu

Next edition of the conference on ocean engineering in 2013

CHENNAI: Marine pollution would affect not just coastal areas but also the hinterland, R. Balakrishnan, chairman, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), said. To control this, government policies should be accompanied by measures to convince industries to adopt clean development mechanisms in their own interest, he added.

Speaking at the valedictory session of the five-day International Conference on Ocean Engineering at IIT-Madras on Thursday, Mr. Balakrishnan said that various sources of pollution including industrial effluents, domestic sewage and discharge from chemical plants were posing serious threats to the coastal areas.

In particular, chemical industries in Cuddalore SIPCOT, the power plants and industries near Manali and the coast near Tuticorin had been identified as causes for concern.

With active monitoring, TNPCB had initiated new norms and effluent treatment activities in these areas to control marine pollution, Mr. Balakrishnan said. However, along with improved norms, the government should also convince industrialists that it was in their long-term interest to prevent coastal degradation, and this could only be done with academic support, he added.

T.T.Narendran, head, Industrial Consultancy and Sponsored Research, IIT-Madras, said that while awareness about pollution should be increased among the public, a clean environment could be guaranteed “only if industrialists had clean hearts and the implementation authority had clean hands.”

Earlier, V. Anantha Subramanian, organising committee secretary, said that nearly 100 papers had been presented at the conference by 30 foreign delegates, 96 Indian delegates, and 62 delegates sponsored by the Naval Research Board and other companies.

He said that IIT-Madras would conduct the next edition of the conference in 2013.


As industrialists never have clean hearts and implementation authorities never have clean hands, it is for the people to have brave hearts and fight against the injustice done to them.

Demand for agricultural varsity in South Arcot

PMK's Tamil Nadu Uzhavar Periyakkam has demanded agricultural varsity be set up in Cuddalore or Villupuram district. PMK leader S.Ramadoss "has urged the government to repeal the antiquated Land Acquisition Act 1894 since it is detrimental to the interests of the farmers."

The Periyakkam has "called upon the government to bring out a white paper on the status of those who had given lands for various projects. " full story>>