Healthy Air, Healthy Climate

In Chennai, India, pollution and face masks have become normalised. People have become so used to living in a degraded environment, the health impacts that stem from this, and the disregard of the agencies charged to protect them that it is hard for an everyday person to believe that a better, cleaner, healthier future is possible.

Two low-income areas, Ennore and Manali in north Chennai, house the the two main industrial clusters in the city. The three thermal power plants located in Ennore and a number of petrochemical industries situated in Manali are the major contributors to deteriorating air quality in Chennai city due to their ash ponds and petro-chemical emissions. Kamarajar Port Limited and Chennai Port Trust are located on the eastern coast of the city and are the city’s coal and cargo shipping hubs, and heavy vehicle movement to and from the ports and industries also contributes significantly to pollution levels in this area. Chennai’s industrial clusters also contribute to global warming. These fossil fuel based industries create unhealthy air, and contribute to the increase of global temperatures.

All polluting industries are centred in marginalised communities, whose consent is often not considered, and when these people have voiced their concerns, they have been ignored. While this could be a major setback to the work in the areas, it is the lack of faith in government and regulatory agencies this breeds, and lack of hope that the situation will change that is the bigger challenge. Decision makers and public agencies have a responsibility to protect these communities, clean up the air, and unmask our city.

End The Discrimination; Declare Ennore Manali Kattupalli Cluster Critically Polluted

Ask the Minister of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change to declare Ennore a Critically Polluted Area, impose a moratorium on expansion of industries, enforce the use of international technologies to control emissions in existing industries, and regularly monitor the air quality of the area in collaboration with the local community.

Chennai

Mr. Anil Madhav Dave:

The Ennore-Manali-Kattupalli industrial cluster is the site of systemic discrimination involving state and central agencies, who through actions and inaction are exposing an already marginalised population to increasing pollution loads solely because the communities lack the political or economic muscle to resist.

Hemmed in by the Ennore-Kattupalli-Manali industrial clusters, the parliamentary constituencies of North Chennai and Thiruvallur perhaps host the highest concentration of polluting industries in the state of Tamil Nadu. Coincidentally, both these constituencies also have the highest proportion of SC/ST and fisherfolk population in the Chennai Metropolitan Region.

This raises a disturbing possibility of whether the weaker political agency of historically marginalised communities may be the reason why this region is being targeted with more and more polluting industries that would not be allowed in politically powerful and affluent neighbourhoods.

This densely populated working class region hosts: Chennai's largest garbage dump yard in Kodungaiyur; a petrochemical refinery; foundries, including a large one for Ashok Leyland's heavy vehicles; hundreds of chemical and petrochemical industries; two coal-fired thermal power plants with a combined capacity of 3330 MW; coal storage yards; two coal ash ponds spreading over more than 1000 acres; two large commercial ports;all the associated heavy vehicle traffic; numerous chemical and petrochemical storage tank farms; desalination and sewage treatment plants.

As if this were not enough, more is planned. More than 6600 MW of additional coal-fired electricity generation capacity, along with the associated ash and coal storage infrastructure, and chemical and pharmaceutical companies are to be set up by converting more than 2000 acres of wetlands to land are proposed for this region.

CPCB ranked the Manali industrial area among the top 10 polluted regions in India. The Ennore cluster was not considered. Otherwise, it too would have qualified among the worst polluted regions nationally. The existing industries and their pollution have already converted this region into a global pollution hotspot, compromising lives and livelihoods. According to air quality data collected by citizen’s group the PM2.5 levels in the region is at least 1.7- to 2.3-times higher than standards prescribed by the Indian environment ministry. Levels of PM2.5 are so high that if the samples had been taken in the US, the US Environmental Protection Agency would issue an advisory for unhealthy air quality.

The air in Ennore contains neurotoxins such as arsenic, lead, manganese and nickel in levels that exceed California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) standards. Apart for the region being intensely polluted, it is also disturbing that there is a caste and class dimension to this victimisation.

We demand that the Ministry of Environment & Forests:
a) Declare the entire Manali-Ennore-Kattupalli region a Critically Polluted Area.
b) Impose a moratorium on expansion or setting up of polluting industries must be put in place
c) Take emergency measures to reverse the pollution trend and restore the ecological health of the region.

Yours faithfully

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Ennore Anaithu Meenava Grama Kootamaipu

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