With monsoon gathering pace, the companies along the Eloor industrial belt are discharging a large volume of effluents into the Periyar, say residents. As they raise their voice of protest citing severe ailments due to the pollution in the past few decades, Express investigates the scenario.
KOCHI: Sajith S, a bus owner, still remembers the crystal clear Periyar flowing in front of his ancestral home. He used to swim in the swishing river and often return with a good catch. Forget the idea of fishing now, the 40-year-old native of Eloor won’t even step into the river polluted with chemical effluents from nearby factories. Unsurprisingly, he isn’t an exception.
For the residents of Eloor, daily life has become difficult owing to pungent air, contaminated water and dead fish floating in the river. Many have migrated to safe places and those who stuck to their soil remain victims of environmental pollution. “We have lost hope that things would change. Though we still plead with officials to improve our living conditions, the unholy nexus of industrial mafia and those in powers make sure that their privileges remain the same. There is no one to take action here. Trade union leaders and government officials get a regular pay cheque from these companies. In the end, the common man is forced to remain a mute spectator,” said Sajith.
With the onset of monsoon, the amount of effluents discharged into the river has multiplied, residents said. “As the river has enough water to carry the sludge into the sea during monsoon, companies have started pumping out the effluents at night. Harmful waste is also discharged when the Irrigation Department opens dam shutters. Increased flow of water through the river will help carry the waste through Eloor regulator-cum-bridge. Instead of wasting precious water, why can’t they put pressure on the factories to install treatment plants to mitigate the hazardous effect of these effluents? asked Eqbal, a resident of Manjummal.
Many residents are forced to fight several ailments and suffer silently as industrial units continue to pollute environment.“Whoever fought against injustice will have a story of severe diseases. Apart from cancer patients, newborns are diagnosed with asthma and many other illnesses. As the groundwater turned yellowish and rainwater harvest became impossible with air pollution, we were forced to depend on the municipality’s water supply,” said Reena, another resident.
Environmentalists point to the inefficiency of Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) in initiating stringent action against the defaulters. “The constant discolouration of water and incessant fish deaths show that chemical pollution of the Periyar is here to stay. With the discharge of various pollutants across the stream, water has become severely toxic. The Pollution Control Board has become the most inactive government institution in the state. If we consider the 40-year history of the agency, their lack of interesrt in evoking various provisions in the law can be seen as the main reason for the current state of the river,” said Purushan Eloor, environmentalist.
Many residents demand immediate remedial measures to regain the lost glory of the river. “The government should make primary treatment plants compulsory for every local self-government body to address waste discharge. The Pollution Control Board should compel hospitals and various industrial units to treat waste on their own premises. Above all, a public monitoring system with environmental wardens should also be put in place to ensure compliance,” he said.
Only treated effluents released into Periyar: PCB
Kochi: The Pollution Control Board (PCB) has been keeping a close watch on the Eloor industrial area to stop release of chemical effluents from factories into the Periyar, Environmental engineer PB Sreelakshmi told Express. The National Green Tribunal has asked the five-member monitoring committee to submit a detailed project report to stop release of industrial effluents and ensure that the river is not polluted. The tribunal has directed the committee constituted to oversee the remedial work and study the concentration of chemicals in the river. The panel includes representatives from the Central Pollution Control Board, Kerala Pollution Control Board, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), State Environment Assessment Authority and a district collectorate official as members. “The committee has to check the presence of contaminants in the river and Kuzhikandam stream and initiate remedial steps. The great flood has washed away the chemical contaminants and we have to study the flood-induced changes also. The PCB had earlier collected water and sediment samples from the river and the stream and placed the report before the tribunal. Now the committee has to prepare a time-bound remedial action plan ,” said Sreelakshmi.
No companies were shut down in the industrial belt owing to direct intervention of the KSPCB till date
The effluents carry a huge quantity of copper, zinc, lead, iron, arsenic, cadmium and other heavy metals which are harmful to human beings.