CHENNAI: “Tamil Nadu is a victim of environmental racism ever since the State accepted the remedial standards set for the clean up of mercury poison caused by multinational giant Unilever at Kodaikanal,” according to a team of Chennai-based artistes. They charged that Unilever was adopting double standards when it comes to tackling pollution caused by it in Tamil Nadu compared to the standards in developed countries.
Launching the music video “Kodaikanal still won’t” on Friday, musicians TM Krishna, Sophia Ashraf and Amrit Rao, have once again brought the hill station into the limelight, emphasising the need for better environmental standards at the abandoned factory site.
The song fuses Carnatic, rap and Tamil Gaana Kuthu genres. The is set in Kodaikanal featuring victims of the pollution themselves.
The video is a brainchild of social activist Nityanand Jayaraman and aims at gathering signatures for a petition urging the company to ensure a clean up that would be accepted by international standards.
The re-launch of the campaign was triggered by Unilever’s failed trial remediation in November 2017 that ended up mobilising more mercury into the environment than it recovered, said Jayaraman.
“Such a shoddy clean-up will never be permitted in Europe. Unilever’s refusal to apply the best standards for India reeks of environmental racism,” he said adding that it’s disappointing that the government has agreed to allow the same standards for the full scale clean up.
Sofia Ashraf, TM Krishna and film-maker Rathindran said they will travel to the Netherlands and United Kingdom later this year, and collaborate with local artists to generate solidarity among Dutch and British citizens against Unilever’s double standards.
The video was launched by Fatima Babu, a long-standing activist leading the struggle against the pollution from UK-based Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper smelter at Thoothukudi. The petition is hosted by Jhatkaa.org targeting Unilever CEO Paul Polman.
Jhatkaa has also announced a “Missed Call” campaign that allows people to sign the petition by giving a missed call to +917338730702.