26 November 2015
Chennai, India : Multidisciplinary panel of experts warn that the mercury pollution is rapidly spreading 360 degrees from Unilever’s mercury thermometer factory.
Dr. Jagdish Krishnaswamy, a forest hydrologist, said, “Mercury is a transcend pollutant, which means the pollution can go beyond its range and can spread across geographically.”
He warned that the mercury pollution has already begun to spread across in all directions and could be spreading to more places.
Wildlife Biologist Ravi Chellam said, “The mercury pollution in Kodaikannal has not only affected the human lives but also the ecosystem of the Western Ghats, which is a global bio-diversity hotspot.”
Environmental journalist and activist Nityanand Jayaraman, said that, the Dutch-British company has proposed to clean 20 mg/kg of residual mercury from the soil as per Dutch standards, while the British standard is to clean until it’s not more than 0.02 mg per kg residual mercury.
He further stated that, Unilever claims that this level of clean-up should leave the site safe for future residential users, and further cleanup is not technologically feasible.
He reiterated that the environmentalists are stressing on a clean-up that is protective of the ecological and hydrological functions of the forests surrounding the factory site.
Navroz Modi, another environmentalist said, “The pollution not only had affected the workers but also their family members and children”
Both Mr.Jayaraman and Mr.Modi accused Unilever not allowing any independent verification to take place, and regular samples weren’t taken, which makes the pollution level hard to determine.
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One of the panelist, Dr. T. Swaminathan, a Chemical Engineer and a retired professor from IIT Madras said, “The problem should be handled with an ethical approach, rather than stating financial feasibility as a hurdle.”
He also stated that, if the mercury is not removed, Unilever’s responsibility would soon become a public burden.
Dr. D. Boralkar, an environmental scientist said, “The clean up should be done to the best possible level, and the regulations should be as stringent as possible”, and his statement was echoed by other panelists as well.
The discussion concluded with everyone agreeing that Unilever caused the mercury contamination. Hence, it’s their responsibility to clean it and restore the Kodaikanal Wildlife Sanctuary.
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