There’s bad news for seafood lovers, if coastal environmental activists are to be believed. Marine organisms are being slowly poisoned along the Tamil Nadu coast by the numerous power plants and industries, while thousands of fish, crabs and prawns that get sucked into the thermal power plants are boiled to death everyday.
“Thermal power plants are located along the coastline, because most plants now use imported coal that reaches them by ship. They also need huge quantities of water to cool their turbines. Everyday, thousands of gallons of seawater are sucked into the plant, along with all the marine life. Chemicals are added to the water to kill all the marine organisms, which are then filtered out. The water gets heated up within the factory, and is then pumped back into the sea along with all the toxic chemicals and poisoned fish,” explained Debi Goenka, executive trustee of the Conservation Action Trust , Mumbai. “It is estimated that each plant destroys all marine life in the surrounding 100 kilometre radius. Along the Indian coastline, there is a thermal power plant located every 36 kilometres. In some areas – Cuddalore for instance, there are thermal plants located only 5 kilometres from each other,” he said.
Debi Goenka was addressing a large gathering of fishing community leaders at a seminar on the importance of environment assessment notification organised in Chennai on Friday. Coastal conservationists educated the community about the different procedures they could use to save their livelihood, and urged them to make the most of public hearing forums to make their views heard. The Environment Impact Assessment Notification (EIA) was made mandatory in 2006, to address the possible environmental hazards from industries along the coast. However, there are gaping holes in the EIA, which is often a farce, Goenka pointed out. “For instance, when I was fighting against the establishment of a Tata power project along the Maharashtra coast, the EIA report was prepared by another Tata company – TCS. The report was a work of fiction that overlooked so many important points, while covering up all the adverse environmental implications,” he said. “The bigger picture is cleverly covered up – the impact of building a port to receive the imported coal, a desalination plant for freshwater, the building of roads, railway lines, housing colonies, the quarrying of stones to create breakwaters, the transportation of the stones, the resultant air pollution-- the company will never bring up all these issues,” said Goenka.
With the 97 fishing leaders furiously taking notes, Goenka urged the fisherpeople to submit their problems in writing to the ministry of environment. The two-day seminar was organised by the Coastal Action Network and Human Rights Foundation.