Burning Issues

Dumping Of Industrial Waste

By Susan Sharma

PESTICIDES

There are about 250 industries including the prominent ones like Fertilizers and Chemicals Travancore Ltd. (FACT), Hindustan Insecticides Ltd (HIL), Indian Rare Earths Ltd etc., mainly chemical ones, in a town called Eloor in Kerala. They manufacture a range of chemicals--petrochemical products, pesticides, rare-earth elements, rubber processing chemicals, fertilisers, zinc/chrome products and leather products. Many of these industries are 50 years old and employ highly polluting technologies. The industries take large amounts of fresh water from the Periyar and in turn discharge concentrated toxic effluents after little treatment. This has led to large-scale destruction of fish in the river and has done extensive damage to the paddy fields and other farmlands in the region.

Greenpeace collected samples of water and sediments from an adjacent creek and soil from the nearby wetlands. Its detailed analysis found that the water at Eloor contained 100 organic compounds that included DDT and its metabolites, endosulfan and several isomers like hexachlorocylcohexane, a persistent pesticide.


RADIOACTIVITY

People living near the Jadugoda mines in Singhbhum district of South Bihar have severely been affected by uranium radioactivity. The Jadugoda mines have been yielding uranium for a long time, which is used in nuclear research in the country.

Uranium Corporation of India Ltd (UCIL) has been dumping waste products in a nearby pond and it has led to sickness of many tribal people who use the pond's radioactive water. A medical team sent by the state government has also reached a similar conclusion and recommended that the inhabitants of the area be shifted at least five km away from the mines and the tailing pond. This recommendation has not been implemented.

The environment committee has in its report lamented the lack of proper security arrangement/fencing in the area in view of the fact that uranium mining comes under national security. Ironically, UCIL has received ISO 14001 certification for environment management system.


POISONOUS GASES

Even 20 years after the Bhopal disaster, the polluted site of the abandoned factory , bleeds poisons daily into the groundwater of local residents. Bhopal is an ongoing disaster. Union Carbide refused to provide full information regarding the nature of the poisoning which meant that doctors were unable to properly treat those exposed.

Dow Chemicals, Union Carbide's new owners, refuses to accept responsibility for the on-going health problems in Bhopal . Nor has it attempted to deal with the large stockpiles of dangerous poisons left behind by Union Carbide or the toxic legacy that is still ruining people's lives. Yet it nevertheless claims that it has "done what it needs to do to pursue the correct environment, health and safety programs."


MERCURY

The main reason for groundwater contamination in places like Gujarat (Vatva, Ankleshwar and Vapi) and Andhra Pradesh (Patancheru, Medak) is the industrial practice of pumping untreated effluents into the ground through bore wells. Even contaminated effluent flowing through rivers and streams or rainwater percolating through contaminated soil (at sites where toxic wastes are dumped or land-filled) can leach into the groundwater. Rainwater also absorbs mercury vapours in the atmosphere from far-off sources. Mercury has been detected in the water (ground-water and surface-water) in the vicinity of chlor-alkali industries using the mercury cell technology and in the vicinity of dyes, paints and pigments manufacturing units that use mercury-based catalysts in their manufacturing processes.

To avoid a mercury disaster in the near future, industries using mercury in its processes should immediately shift to non-mercury alternatives.

The thermometer factory in Kodaikanal belonging to Hindustan Lever saw heavy dumping of mercury bearing scrap by local scrap dealers who bought the waste from the company. Community action by aware citizens got the company to ship back the hazardous scrap to U.S from where the same had been imported in the first place. For the first time health problems of workers exposed to mercury fumes were also addressed.

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