A PEOPLE’S Right Declaration Convention held on September17, 2006, at Eloor — a small island on the Periyar river — in Kerala, which has been identified as one of the toxic hotspots in the world, came down heavily on the Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) for failing to check the indiscriminate discharge of hazardous effluents into the river by 250 factories in the Udyogamandal industrial estate. The convention was held 10 days after contaminated water from the Periyar flowed upstream triggering a scare that it might get into the drinking water supply through the local pumping station in Eloor. The meeting, attended by politicians, trade union leaders, legislators, environmental activists and scientists, was organised by the Periyar Malineekarana Virudha Samithy (PMVS), a group of people agitating against the pollution of the Periyar. The focus was to highlight the local community’s rights to life, food security and safe environment. “The KSPCB has degenerated into an ineffective bureaucracy. It lacks the will, commitment and right perspective to control pollution. The board should be revamped immediately,” said Eloor MP K Chandran Pillai. The inaction by the board on a report submitted by the Local Area Environmental Committee (LAEC) that looked into the pollution of the Periyar and suggested remedial steps was also highlighted. The LAEC report revealed that the soil, the river and the wetlands in and around Eloor were contaminated with metals like zinc, lead, cadmium, chromium and organic pollutants like DDT. “The situation has not improved a bit,” says Purushan Eloor of PMVS. “We have conducted several health surveys. Around 80 per cent of the people have respiratory ailments. Also, incidents of miscarriages and congenital defects have increased.” A people’s charter of demands called for issuing medical cards to those affected for free medical aid; halt on production of DDT and endosulfan by the Hindustan Insecticides Limited and payment of compensation by the Centre and WHO. “The government had set up HIL on WHO’s request. It’s their responsibility to decontaminate the river,” said M A Sakir Hussain, convener of PMVS. The charter also called for the relocation of radioactive materials stocked in underground storages, about one-anda- half metres away from the river, by India Rare Earths Ltd.
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