Villagers from Gummidipoondi participating in a public hearing on
Friday were unanimous in their opposition to the hazardous waste
landfill near their homes.
"We don’t want
our villages to become dump yards. Do you take us for fools?"
Padmanabhan, a local activist associated with Pasumai Thayagam – a
magazine brought out by the PMK – asked the panelists. Most of the
villagers said the health of their children was already affected by
various pollutants from industries in the Gummidipoondi belt.
representatives, activists and the locals were angry that a project
like this was being mooted. However, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control
Board is keen on setting up a landfill and hazardous waste management
facility at Gummidipoondi that could treat/store industrial waste.
Activist R Arul
said: "Our area is rich in groundwater resources. If there is any
accidental leak of the chemical waste into the soil, all our water
would be contaminated." He pointed out that during the water crisis
last summer, Gummidipoondi’s water resources were tapped for Chennai.
E Rajendran of
Pappanankuppam said he was taken to Hyderabad by Ramky Enviro Engineers
- who have the contract to set up the landfill - to view a similar
project there. "I had to wear a mask when I went to the landfill. Do
you mean to say that all of us in the village have to start wearing
masks considering that the landfill proposed is less than half a
kilometre from our homes," he demanded.
people, including a large number of women, had come to the public
hearing at the Tiruvallur Collectorate, despite the fact that it was at
least 45 kilometres from their villages. A petition was filed in the
High Court by 83-year-old Krishnamaraju to locate the public hearing at
a more convenient place, but the court said that the petition had come
too late. However, the court put a freeze on passing any orders at
Friday’s public hearing. The petition will be taken up again on Tuesday.
Holding a public
hearing away from where the people who may be affected live was a
deliberate attempt by the TNPCB to "sneak in" the project, said
Nityanand Jayaraman of The Other Media, an initiative helping
communities to monitor pollution in Cuddalore. He also said that the
rapid environmental assessment taken by the NEERI failed to cover
crucial safety aspects. Cleaner production process by industries was
the answer to reduce and manage waste, he asserted.
"The quantity of
each type of waste has not been mentioned in the assessment report.
This demonstrates that no of detailed characterisation of waste have
been done," said Sudhakar, representative of NGO, Toxic Links.
the TNPCB and the Tamil Nadu Waste Management Limited offered
explanations about the safety of the project and the measures taken to
prevent any leakage. However, the people were not willing to buy these.
"When you can’t even get the survey numbers right (the NEERI report had
quoted numbers that did not cover the project site), how can we believe
you?" a villager asked the panel.