TIRUCHY: Residents of villages in proximity to the TNPL’s Paper Factory (Unit-II) at Mondipatti in the district complain of having to sleep wearing masks, not because of a localised Covid-19 outbreak, but due to the overpowering stench from the new pulp mill unit’s emissions.
Claiming the unit as having been set up despite public opposition, villagers say the factory continues to renege on its promise of immediate action even when complaints were raised within a week of the issue surfacing. Tamil Nadu Newsprint and Papers Limited (TNPL) as part of its expansion plans set up a pulp mill in its Unit-II paper factory four months ago.
Residents of Mondipatti, where the paper factory is set up, however, claim government officials to not have properly sought for their consent to establish the pulp mill. Echoing their views, T Rajkumar of neighbouring Vadakkuserpatty said despite opposition from a majority of the villagers the pulping unit was started, leading to serious problems for the residents.
The stench of the emissions from the unit is that of rotten cabbage, he added. Pointing to the stench to have become intense over the past one month, former chairman of Manapparai union and councillor Selvaraj said as many as seven villages, namely Mondipatti, Sithanatham, Kannudayanpatti, Thoppampatti, Kalingapatti, Samuthiram, and Pathiripatty, are affected by it.
Residents of other villages, too, complain of the stench now, he added. P Perumal of Pallipatti, which is 2.5 km away from the factory, said, "We are forced to mask ourselves even during sleep as we feel the stench might affect our health.” He also claimed the effluent discharge from the factory to be contaminated, making fish float dead in waterbodies.
“The recent rains worsened the situation by spreading the contamination farther," he added. While Rajkumar mentions the villagers along with Srirangam MLA M Palaniandi having met the factory authorities in connection with the issues within days of the commissioning of the pulp unit, the latter then pointed to a trial run being on and assured of resolving the issues within a month.
Villagers point to having submitted a petition over the issue with the district collector as recent as a week ago. A factory source, too, expressed concern over the “inaction” of the plant authorities. When contacted, a plant authority, who wished to remain anonymous, said the stench was not from harmful emissions but from gas and water. "We have ordered a scrubbing unit which will be set up within three months. This will resolve the issue."
Scrubber systems are used to remove particulates or gases from industrial exhaust streams. People, however, pointed to the same claim as having been made four months ago and said the authorities were only evading the issue. When contacted, District Collector M Pradeep Kumar told TNIE that the issue would be looked into immediately.