CHENNAI: Pointing out that the proposed clean-up standard at the thermometer factory site at Kodaikanal is inadequate, scientific experts from various fields have called for cleaning up to the levels that existed prior to establishment the factory.
“The technology to clean up contamination to much lower levels than the one being proposed by Hindustan Unilever exists, and it ideally must be made use of,” said retired professor T Swaminathan from the chemical engineering department of the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.
Swaminathan was speaking at a panel discussion on impact of Unilever’s proposed mercury clean-up on the ecology and hydrology of the Kodaikanal wildlife sanctuary, at the CPR Convention Centre on Thursday.
Speaking at the event, Ravi Chellam, a wildlife biologist and member of the Bombay Natural History Society, emphasised the need to understand the impact of mercury on the ecologically sensitive Pambar Shola, which is adjoining the site. “It must be ensured that the site is cleaned up in such a way that there is no contamination in the ecosystem and the rivers running through it. The impact must be kept in mind while calculating the cleanup.”
“Till date, there is no exact estimate of the amount of mercury leaked in the environment or how much is still leaking,” said Jagdish Krishnaswamy, a forest hydrologist from Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Bangalore.
Calling for a comprehensive, long-term, multi-disciplinary environmental monitoring plan to identify such hotspots, environmental scientist D Boralkar, a former member of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Wastes, said the clean-up should be as stringent as feasible.
“It should be on a par with the local area requirements and ecological sensitivities, especially when the factory site is part of an ecologically sensitive watershed forest,” said the former member secretary of the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board.