Corpwatch: Don't compromise our futures
Cuddalore residents oppose new PVC plant
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July, 2002: Communities around a major industrial park in Cuddalore, Tamilnadu, - already reeling from the impacts of pollution from the industrial park - are fed up with business as usual and have stepped up their efforts to put a stop to the latest proposal for another polluting factory in the area. Villagers from the surrounding areas of the SIPCOT industrial estate have joined forces with various groups to oppose a proposed polyvinyl chloride (PVC) factory being proposed by Chemplast Sanmar, an Indian corporation with US$20 million funding being sought from the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a part of the World Bank group. The proposed facility would produce over 170,000 tons of PVC per year.

Related : PVC: The Poison Plastic

Located just 200 kilometers south of Chennai on the east coast of India, Cuddalore district is rich in minerals as well as host to a number of rivers entering the Bay of Bengal. The area is also one of the most robust fishing areas in the state of Tamilnadu, and home to a large number of fisherpeoples. Tamilnadu's development plans for the area include a heavily subsidized industrial park, SIPCOT Industrial Complex, under the auspices of the state-owned corporation, State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu (SIPCOT) Limited. SIPCOT was formed in 1975 to promote small, medium and large scale industries in "backward" areas in Tamilnadu by providing a host of incentives and infrastructure for industries to locate in certain areas. The Cuddalore Industrial complex is already home to a number of chemical, biotech, pharmaceutical and fertilizer companies.

At a press conference held in Cuddalore on June 20, representatives of Eachangadu Women's Associations, Cuddalore District Consumer Federation Council, CorpWatch India, Greenpeace, Pasumai Thaayagam and Toxics Link addressed the press to denounce the proposed PVC facility and asked the IFC to reject the application for funding.

"I am from Eachangadu, one of the villages worst affected by industrial pollution in SIPCOT. Industrial pollution has caused untold misery to us, particularly the women. As women, water supply and ensuring our family's health is our business. Our water is poisoned. Our children are listless and fall ill frequently. Skin diseases, nervous disorders, respiratory problems, chronic headaches and malaise the list is long. We end up spending nearly Rs. 1000 (US$20) per family from our meager earnings in monthly medical expenses. We don't want industries that compromise the future of our children" said S. Vasantha, coordinator of the Vadaamallee Women's Association.

PVC is made from known carcinogens such as vinyl chloride and the target of global campaigns calling for its complete ban. Noting this, the press statement put out by the coalition of groups stated, "PVC is a poison plastic. Its production, use, recycling and disposal are scientifically proven to be associated with the release of dangerous poisons, including known cancer-causing chemicals such as dioxins and vinyl chloride. PVC factories should not be allowed to be set up anywhere, leave alone in a place like SIPCOT where communities are already dying a slow-death because of pollution-related diseases."

Another polluting industry would further devastate the communities already impacted by industrial activity in the area. Health problems in the area are rampant and the proposed facility would worsen the health of community members. The industrial park has already over-exploited water resources in the area, leading to water scarcity for the residents as well as pollution of the ground water as a result of the intrusion of seawater into the local aquifers. The PVC factory proposes to use 120,000 litres of water every hour - equivalent to the use by 2,400 people in a day! The Environmental Impacts Assessment is very inaccurate, under reporting toxic emissions and suppressing crucial facts related to the formation and release of dioxins. The proposed factory will be sited next to the tidal river Uppanar, violating the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) notification of the Government of India.

The International Finance Corporation of the World Bank group, which finances and provides advice for private sector ventures and projects in developing countries in partnership with private investors, has drawn severe criticism from the groups for approving Chemplast's flawed EIA report without public consultation, and even before the legally mandated public hearing took place in India. The groups have also objected to the irregularities in the process so far and behind the scenes lobbying by district officials. "We are aware that district authorities have acted as agents to the company by arm-twisting elected representatives to speak out in favour of the project," said R. Arul of Pasumai Thaayagam. The groups will formally complain to the State Government on this matter.

Meanwhile, activists have vowed to increase the pressure on IFC until the proposed PVC project is scrapped.

Amit Srivastava
July 2002

Amit Srivastava is the coordinator of CorpWatch India. This article is republished with permission.

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