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A disaster in the making

Kochi: Pesticide pollution has taken its toll on people and natural resources in Kochi in a major way over the past few years. The Periyar, which is the drinking source of the city, has turned into a dumping place of toxic effluents for over 250 industrial units along the banks of the river in the Eloor and Edayar regions. The river is also the source of livelihood for thousands of fishermen.

A Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Wastes, which visited the State in July last year, imposed a collective fine of Rs. 2.5 crores on industrial units in the two regions for being responsible for the pollution of the river. The committee observed that "River Periyar is an ecological disaster in the making."

The panel recommended the closure of the Central public-sector unit Hindustan Insecticides Ltd. (HIL) at Eloor for violating the conditions of authorisation as required under the hazardous waste rules.

The committee recommended that the company be allowed to reopen only if it shifted to clean technology and a new product mix. It noted that sale and distribution of Endosulfan in Kerala was, in any event, banned pursuant to orders of the Kerala High Court.

A study conducted by Greenpeace in 2003 found that diseases such as cancer, bronchitis, asthma, allergic dermatitis and stomach ulcers and congenital birth defects were rampant in Eloor. The study concluded that unchecked industrial pollution of Eloor had resulted in the increasing incidence of disease and death.

Purushan Eloor of the Periyar Malineekarana Virudha Samithi says that huge quantities of highly toxic organochlorines are dumped into the Kuzhikandam creek in Eloor. A `Corporate Crimes' report prepared by Greenpeace says that around 20,000 people had been directly affected by the contamination of the creek. "According to the report, around one lakh people are directly exposed to these persistent organic pollutants and another one million indirectly to pollutants spreading through water and soil and by eating fish," says V.J. Jose, river keeper appointed by Greenpeace.

By G. Krishnakumar

By G. Krishnakumar

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