The world is becoming a difficult place to live for all the living things including Homo sapiens. The World Health Organization (WHO) determined that 154,000 people die every year from the impacts of climate change (Global Warming) and particularly developing nations such as India are the most vulnerable. These numbers are estimated to double by 2020 as reported by BBC.
In India, the much needed industrialization is happening at rapid pace at the cost of resources. But industries in India are not acting responsibly to avert the plausible occurrence of incidents such as “Bhopal Gas tragedy”. This accident has taken more than 25,000 lives and also caused long standing problems to the residents of Bhopal. Indians obviously don’t want the repeat of this incident due to the negligence of Government and industry. Here is a case study to analyze the current problem happening in one of the most industrialized states in India, Tamil Nadu.
SIPCOT chemical industries in Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu is notoriously known for the damage it has done to the environment. On 22 March 2008 a Nagpur based “National Environmental Engineering Research Institute” submitted a report for the Tamil Nadu Pollution Board that residents of the SIPCOT area of Cuddalore were 2000 times more at risk of likely to contract cancer in their lifetimes due to their exposure to high levels of toxic gases from chemical industries in the region. The different stakeholders involved in the SIPCOT problem are fishermen community, farmers, workers, Industries and Government.
Fishermen in the surrounding areas complain of the effluents mixed with river and sea water leading to the death of fish causing heavy economic liability to the community. Their livelihood is at stake because of the poisonous chemical wastages mixed with sea and river water without any treatment. Chemical effluents also equally pollute the soil in the region give poor yield of corps. If the companies move their plants from this region, workers’ employment opportunity will be at risk, currently SIPCOT employ around 5000 people. Governments need ample tax revenues from industries to support social programmes so it is not easy to dismantle these industries at the huge economic burden.
Contemporary India is also part of the global capitalistic agenda so it is not a sane idea to go against companies but the state government of Tamil Nadu needs introspection to avoid the previous mistakes such as in Bhopal. In 2005, Global Community Monitor declared Cuddalore, a toxic hot spot for rampant air emissions of volatile organic and sulphur compounds. The video above veraciously shows the problems associated in the chemical industries in Cuddalore.
Any serious government which wants to solve the problem in Cuddalore will form a committee or forum with all the different stakeholders to discuss and sort out the issue. The errant industries which have violated the standards frequently should be forced to shut down. The people who are severely affected by the pollution should be placed to safe locality for rehabilitation. There are feasible and viable technologies available to effectively treat the effluents before entering sea and river to avoid polluting the water. This will have a positive externality on the fishermen community.
Government should not give license to the industries which produces banned chemicals or emits the carcinogens into the air. It needs to educate the people surrounding the areas on the after effects of each chemical effluent so that people can refrain from doing dangerous activities. It is the responsibility of the industry to bear the cost of pollution since it enjoys other levy from the government.
If every stakeholder in Cuddalore can act soberly, we can avoid the repeat of Bhopal, otherwise a tragedy of that magnitude is not too far from happening. We must not practice capitalism at the expense of lives. We should make this world a better place for the next generation to live but not to extinct.
Sathiya Velan Subramaniyam