Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Residents Protest Effluent Discharge in SIPCOT Canal: Block the National Highway

Residents Protest Effluent Discharge in SIPCOT Canal: Block the National Highway -

Cuddalore, 25 August 2010: Protesting the discharge of effluents through the storm water drains by the SIPCOT units, more than 100 residents of SIPCOT Cuddalore blocked the National Highway (NH) 45A today. The villagers were forced to take this step after the effluent discharge contaminated the village canal in Sangolikuppam village of SIPCOT.

According to the sources at about 9.30 am today SIPCOT residents noticed yellow colour water with strong ammonia like odour at the canal opposite the Kudikadu Bus Stop. This canal is parallel to NH45A and runs from Tagros in the north of SIPCOT Complex till the south of Sangolikuppam village ,where it meets the Pillukuthu canal which eventually drains into river Uppanar. It was reported that the odour from the effluent near the bus stop was ranked at around 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 and caused eye burning sensation. Following the canal further towards the South, the residents found black effluent with an oily layer and an acidic fruity odour near the petrol pump at Kudikadu. The residents complained of itching sensation when in contact with the water.

Sources inform that industries regularly release effluent through their stormwater drains during the rainy season. Based on the location where these effluents were found residents suspect TANFAC, Clariant, Shasun, Asian Paints, Aurobindo and Tantech responsible for this discharge. In the absence of a monitoring mechanism it was difficult to ascertain the exact source of the effluents.

While such releases are routine, today the residents particularly got angry as the contamination of Pillukuthu canal would deprive them of water for regular usage. The village panchayat blocks this canal during the rains to harvest rainwater and the entire pool has been contaminated by today's discharge.

Local police was the first to intervene at site to end the blockade but people refused to give in to the pressure and demanded action on the units responsible. Later the Village Officer, Tehsildar and the District Environment Engineer (DEE) of TNPCB intervened in the matter. The negotiations went on for about three hours and finally the blockade was removed upon assurance from DEE that – 1) the effluent would be cleaned up immediately, 2) sample would be taken to ascertain the contaminants, 3) adequate action would be taken on the units responsible.
SACEM monitors have also taken a sample of the effluents along with the TNPCB officials. A complaint with regards to today's incident has been sent to District Collector and TNPCB head office.

A farce called public hearing

A farce called public hearing

August 23, 2010

G Babu Jayakumar

By definition, it is an open gathering of officials and stakeholders at which people are allowed to freely offer comments. Officials are not obliged to act on them or even to respond publicly to the issues flagged by the participants.

But "open" and "freely" are terms government officials are not exactly comfortable with. So, they often look for workarounds to ‘overcome’ the public hearings hurdle that has been made mandatory before taking the final call on major development or industrial projects that could result in human displacement or have an impact on the local ecosystem.

Like at Kalpakkam in 2001 when a public hearing was held on setting up a new nuclear reactor when work on the project was already under way. More of that later. Or at New Washermanpet in Chennai on June 18 this year at a public hearing on a solid waste management project at Kodungaiyur dumpyard where DMK cadre muzzled voices of dissent (see case study).

A public hearing this writer attended at the Kancheepuram district collector’s office way back in 1999 for the National Thermal Power Corporation’s coal-fired power plant at Cheyyur witnessed high drama. The entire premises bustled with people from villages that would have been affected by the plant. All of them vociferously opposed it fearing environment degradation. The project was dropped. Or was it? For, rumours of a gas-powered power plant at Cheyyur have been doing the rounds for quite some time now. Remember the proposed greenfield airport project at Sriperumbudur that was supposed to have been dead following public outcry? It is back on the table. Only the other day, Chief Minister M Karunanidhi clarified that soil tests have been conducted at the project site.

When the Kalpakkam nuclear establishment was set up in the 1970s, there was no such thing as a public hearing. The concept of public hearing was first introduced in 1994 through a government notification. It all started with a proposed power project in Kerala’s ‘Silent Valley’ in the 1980s. Opposition to the project on environmental grounds was so intense that the government had to kill it. That was when the Centre woke up to the possibility of ecological disaster and made public hearings mandatory.

Accordingly, in 2001, the Kalpakkam nuclear establishment had to turn to the people to hear their views on a plant that was to be located well within their premises. The authorities went through the motions of holding a public hearing since work on the nuclear plant has already started. No prizes for guessing that the project was cleared despite vehement opposition. In fact, soon after the public hearing was over, top officials of the nuclear establishment told reporters that the project would get the green light. How did they know? "Come on, this is a project that enhances India’s strategic depth. Would the Centre abandon it?" Need any more convincing?

That brings us to the basic question: are public hearings in India a farce? In 2002, green activist Shweta Narayan was at Valsar in Gujarat where a chemical industry wanted to expand its pesticide making facility. She was among the six activists who attended the public hearing held within the company premises.

The venue was packed with workers and union office-bearers, who at the first instance of an activist raising objection, surrounded and literally chased them out. The police, who were outside, took them in their vehicles to the nearby station and gave them just one choice: take the next train and leave. They did just that.

Another public hearing at Melakotaiyur in 2004 for the setting up of a hazardous waste dumpyard at Kelambakkam, near Chennai, saw 700 people opposing it. The project was scrapped. But subsequently Gummidipoondi was suggested as an alternative site for the dumpyard and a public hearing held without the mandatory environment impact assessment.

Despite massive opposition, the project was cleared. How a project unsuitable for Kelambakkam could be implemented in Gummidipoondi, wonders Shweta.

At the public hearing for the Cuddalore Power Corporation Limited in 2007 for a 1,320 MW coal-fired plant, around 1,500 people opposed the project. The people were so charged up that a small crowd fell at the feet of the district collector urging him not to clear the proposal.

When the collector was whisked away, the people held a road roko. Two weeks later, a case was filed against 18 villagers for allegedly ‘disrupting a public servant from discharging his duty’ and the activists at the venue, including Shweta, were cited as witnesses.

When the next public hearing was held a month later, barricades were erected en route the venue and villagers turned back. Only those who were given "tokens" by the village administrative offices were allowed attend the public hearing. Of course, the project was cleared.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Fishes found dead and floating in SIPCOT

Fish Kill in SIPCOT, Cuddalore -

Cuddalore, 20 May, 2010: Villagers living near the SIPCOT Industrial Estate in Cuddalore reported a serious fish kill yesterday in the Thamaraikulam Pond along the East Coast Road. SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitors who inspected the site suspect a possible leak from the pipeline conveying effluents from Arkema Chemicals, Bayer, Pioneer and Pandian Chemicals that runs alongside the pond.

At least 100 fish were found dead and floating in the pond. The District Environmental Engineer, when contacted over phone by SACEM, said the TNPCB had already visited the place and taken samples of water and fish.

A written complaint regarding the fish kill has been made to the District Collector and the TNPCB.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Chennai IT expressway should be "extended till Cuddalore"

Homes near offices will help cut congestion on IT Corridor
TNN, Apr 13, 2010, 11.05pm IST

It’s a long road to workplaces. To lessen the strain of employees who currently travel 40 km to and from work, the IT expressway should have adequate housing, schools, hospitals and other social infrastructure, say experts.

“Employees usually stick with a company for a fairly long period of time. So most of them stay in Chennai and commute to their offices on OMR because there are more facilities for their families in Chennai,” says AN Sachithanandan, ex-president, Institute of Town Planners of India.

One sure way of addressing commuter woes is to expand the expressway and build facilities around it, say experts. “The expressway starts abruptly at Madhya Kailash and ends at Siruseri. Ideally it should extend till Puducherry or Cuddalore like the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, which runs for nearly 100 km,” says urban engineering expert KP Subramanian.

Company transportation is a temporary option, says Subramanian. “Company vehicles add to the traffic and sap the city’s resources, including roadspace. Also, commuting is not a desirable concept when you take into account the amount of fuel and time spent,” he says.

With optimal utilisation of land resources, authorities can also consider a dedicated bus corridor for the six-lane expressway. “Buses will move without any hindrance or cross-traffic,” says MG Devasahayam, former administrator of Chandigarh Capital Project.

For now, independent agencies are coming up with their own solutions. The Metropolitan Transport Corporation, which runs nearly 400 trips on this stretch daily, plans to augment the service by introducing more air-conditioned buses. Southern Railway is planning to lay a new line to connect Chennai with Puducherry and Cuddalore. The proposed line will connect Sholinganallur, Kovalam, Tiruporur and Mamallapuram till Cuddalore Fort.

Authorities should come up with some short-term solutions as well to ease the traffic flow, say commuters. “Many approach roads aren’t equipped to handle the same amount of traffic as the expressway,” says former IT professional V Ranganathan. The government should increase the green signal time at junctions at Vijayanagar in Velachery and Sholinganallur checkpost to avoid huge pile-up of vehicles, he says.

(with inputs from Jeeva, V Ayyappan & T K Rohit)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Foot overbridge work starts at Thirupadiripuliyur station

Foot overbridge work starts at Thirupadiripuliyur station - The Hindu

Special Correspondent

— Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy

Enhanced facility: The steel girders placed in position for the foot overbridge at Thirupadiripuliyur railway station in Cuddalore.

CUDDALORE: The Thirupadiripuliyur railway station is being fully remodelled and new facilities are being created. The prominent among these is the foot overbridge now under construction.

All the passengers would have to necessarily climb on to the foot overbridge to board the trains on Platform Nos. 1, 2 and 3.The railway sources said that the foot overbridge and the improvement of the station premises, including light fittings, seating arrangements and rest rooms, was part of the package for gauge conversion.

The Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd (RVNL), executing agency, had given the works to the Tata Company which in turn had engaged sub-contractors to complete various works. But the sub-contractor assigned the task of constructing the foot overbridge had caused inordinate delay in its execution and hence, he had to be replaced with another sub-contractor, the sources said.

Now, the steel girders were being positioned for the configuration of the structure. The sources said that the unreserved ticket system would be placed on Platform No.1, and the VIP lounge and the Station Master’s chamber would be located on Platform 2 and 3. These two platforms were called the island platforms because these were located between the tracks.

A fruit and vegetable shop and a refreshment shop would also be put up. The sources further said that the regular train services on the newly laid broad gauge section from Villupuram to Mayiladuthurai via Cuddalore would commence only after completion of all the above mentioned works.

Meanwhile, trial run of goods train had begun in this sector. On Thursday, two goods trains proceeded towards Mayiladuthurai and two others chugged their way to Villupuram.

Railway officials journeyed in a trolley today to check the tracks and to carry out necessary corrections.

SACEM demands community involvement in environmental action plan for Cuddalore

SACEM demands community involvement in environmental action plan for Cuddalore -

Cuddalore, 19 January 2010: SIPCOT Area Community Environmental Monitors (SACEM) has welcomed the center's decision for temporary restrictions on new industrial projects in Cuddalore and demanded that the community should be involved in all action plans for environmental remediation. In a letter to the State and Central Pollution Control Boards, SACEM has shared all its reports on the existing environmental conditions of SIPCOT region and requested the Boards to adopt an inclusive approach to solving the problems of pollution by ensuring community and local self governments participation over the next eight months.

SACEM has also demanded a complete ban on new projects until a much needed regional carrying capacity study of the local environment is conducted. "The recommendation by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) for a carrying capacity study has been pending since 1998. The MoEF report reiterates what SACEM has been claiming for the last six years that SIPCOT is a critically polluted region. A moratorium on new polluting units is absolutely essential as a first step to resolve the problems of pollution," said SACEM. For the existing units in the region, SACEM demanded stricter monitoring mechanisms and called for immediate legal action, including prosecution of company directors, for violation of any conditions.

Earlier this month, the Center had imposed temporary restrictions on new development projects in industrial clusters that score more than 70 points on the Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI) issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests recently. Cuddalore, with a CEPI of 77.45 would be affected by this decision of the Center.

The MoEF report can be found at:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

District level marathon in Cuddalore

District-level marathon at Cuddalore on January 24 - The Hindu

Special Correspondent

CUDDALORE: A district-level marathon will be held here on January 24. It will be conducted in four categories: men, women, school boys and school girls, according to D.Padmanabhan, District Sports Officer.

In a statement here on Tuesday, the DSO said that prior to the event it was mandatory for all participants to undergo health check-up to be conducted by the government doctors at Anna stadium on January 22 and 23 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

After the screening, they would be given identity cards along with the medical certificates. The distance to be covered is as follows: men – 15 km, women – 10 km, school boys and girls – five km.

Prize money

Prize money would be given to those who finish in the first three places: men and women – Rs 5,000, Rs 3,000 and Rs 2,000; for students – Rs 3,000, Rs 2,000 and Rs 1,000. Those who end up in the fourth to 10th places would get prize money of Rs 500 each.

Further details can be obtained over telephone – 04142-220590 or cell phone – 99403 41495.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ban on new units in highly polluted areas

Ban on new units in highly polluted areas - The Hindu

Special Correspondent

January 16, 2010

NEW DELHI: The Centre has imposed temporary restrictions on new development projects in industrial clusters that score more than 70 points on the Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI) issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The restrictions on projects from critically polluted industrial clusters will be applicable for eight months during which time the Central Pollution Control Board along with the respective State Pollution Control Boards will finalise a time-bound action plan for improving the environmental quality of these areas.

The situation will be reviewed subsequently and further instructions issued accordingly. According to a notification by the Ministry, projects from industrial clusters with CEPI score above 70 received for grant of environmental clearance will be returned to the project proponents.

The most affected industrial areas, as a result of this notification, would be Ankleswar, Vapi, Ghaziabad, Chandrapur, Korba, Bhiwadi, Angul Talcher, Vellore, Singrauli, Ludhiana, Najafgarh drain and surrounding areas in Delhi, Noida, Dhanbabd, Kanpur, Cuddalore, Agra, Haldia, Ahmedabad, Navi Mumbai, Mangalore, Coimbatore, Visakhapatnam, and Patancheru-Bollaram.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Penniyar banks cleared for river festival

Banking on special day for river clean-up - The Hindu

A.V. Ragunathan

Penniyar banks are getting spruced up for river festival on January 18

— Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy

WAITING FOR D-DAY: The banks of Pennaiyar in Cuddalore readying for the January 18 ‘River Festival’.

CUDDALORE: The banks of the Penniyar river, just ahead of its confluence point in the Bay of Bengal near Cuddalore, are getting spruced up for the January 18 River Festival. A massive crowd from the town and the nearby taluks will throng banks on that day.

The river banks are generally infested with weeds and outgrowths which are so dense as to block the water flow during rainy season. During summer when the river trickles down, the banks will be covered with thorny bushes. Hence, it has become an annual exercise for the civic body to tone up the banks for the festival.

Chairman of the Cuddalore Municipality T. Thangarasu, who has initiated the clean-up drive well in advance, told The Hindu that the civic body had requisitioned a bulldozer from the Agriculture Department to mow down the weeds and municipality trucks to carry the pulled-down thorny bushes to be dumped elsewhere. The approach road too was getting ready for a smooth movement of holiday-makers and sanitation measures would also be taken at this point. Special buses would ply from the main bus stand to the river front, he said.

M. Kala (58), a resident of the area, said that this was an important event for the people of Cuddalore. They used to come in droves to have a holy dip in the Penniyar. Deities would also be brought from almost all temples from across the district to the river for worship. Entertainment avenues would also be provided on the banks, besides rows of shops vending trinkets, household goods and candies. She said that for generations, the Penniyar was considered sacred and therefore, the rituals and last rites were being conducted here.

Though the Pongal festival is celebrated for four days in other places, as far as Cuddalore is concerned, it would be a five-day festival comprising Bogi, Pongal, Kari Naal, Vetri Naal and Thiru Naal.

The Thiru Naal is so named because it is a unique day when one could witness the assemblage of deities from renowned temples at one place. Therefore, Ms. Kala said that the river is the rarest one in the sense that besides providing an irrigation to a vast stretch of land along its course, it also provides a spiritual avenue to the people.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mud pots sought by people for their traditional value

Mud pots sought by people for their traditional value - The Hindu

A.V. Ragunathan

Potters make use of the festive season

Photo: C. Venkatachalapathy

Against odds: Pots lined up in Cuddalore. —

CUDDALORE: Against all odds, the humble pot is still retaining its place in the society owing to its traditional value. The mud pots are most sought after by the farming community and the orthodox families, particularly during Pongal festival and weddings.

The art of pot-making is being nurtured by a handful of families at Chinna Kanganankuppam near Cuddalore town for generations. However, the pot-makers are becoming a fast vanishing tribe because their wards are quitting the lineal business for the greener pastures elsewhere. Of the 40 families in the area, now only five are engaged in whirling the wheels. With vessels made of alloys flooding the markets the lowly pot has a little space left to squeeze in.

The inclement weather this season too has contributed its share of woes. According to P.Mani (52) and his wife Pokila, from a dipper load of soil being brought from Ariyalur at a cost of Rs 4,000 a maximum of 300 pots can be made. Another Rs. 1,000 ought to be spent on firewood for baking the pots and on paints for decorating them. It takes three days for a pot to get its full shape: ie., initially the soil is mould to the required shape over the wheel rotated manually and then the base is added.

Later, the pot is burnt till it turns red and then red peroxide is applied on the surface to get the sheen. The profound concern of Mr. Mani is storing place. The clay mould should be exposed to sunlight for two days and if it rains all efforts will go in vain because the freshly formed pot will turn into a lump of mud.

It literally means that the wheel has come full circle for them, thus, forcing them to begin from the scratch. Considering the labour involved and the money invested the trade is hardly rewarding.

Yet, the families stick on because they are not endowed with any other skills to earn their livelihood. There is of course market resistance to the pot because of its brittle and transient nature.

However, a ray of hope for these families that are barely on the sustenance level is the “marriage sets” comprising 22-25 pots of various sizes with lids. These are considered “must items” in the weddings and hence, the marriage seasons bring the pot-makers some solace.

Mr. Mani stoically says that somehow the wheel of the fortune is rotating haltingly and it is only a question of time before it comes to a grinding halt.