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Vembanad Lake pollution: charge denied

By Our Special Correspondent

KOCHI, MARCH 30. McDowell, the beverage alcohol company, has denied that its plant at Varanad, near Cherthala, is causing pollution in the area and killing fish in the Vembanad Lake.

Reacting to media reports, K. Selvaraj, chief operating officer of the company, said today the firm had invested Rs.2.5 crores to set up an additional effluent treatment plant at Cherthala and this would be ready by May-end. He said the Cherthala unit was one of the oldest units of the company and it had been observing environmental norms for the last 40 years. The proposed treatment plant, an anaerobic digester, would take care of future needs also.

Mr. Selvaraj told The Hindu that the Varanad unit used as raw material molasses, which had no harmful components. According to him, an office-bearer of the Alappuzha Town Consumers Association, Josey Joseph, had told the company that effluents from the Aluva-Eloor industrial belts were being dumped in the backwaters at Alappuzha at night.

N.J. Menon, chief technical adviser to the UB Group, alleged that coir manufacturers were dumping dyes and chemicals in the backwaters and said this would have killed the fish. Sunitha Budhiraja, corporate vice-president, said the company was using bio-methenation technology developed in France for effluent treatment. This conformed with standards set by the Pollution Control Board. The plant was upgraded in 1996 when activated sludge treatment was adopted.

Mr. Selvaraj said that submerged pipelines were used earlier for effluent discharge, and the company had not removed these. These were shown to the Chief Minister, A.K. Antony, who visited the area last week, by local fishermen when he visited the area.

The Fisheries Minister, K.V. Thomas, has called a meeting here on Wednesday to hear the views of the company on the issue.

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