Layers of dust cover houses and parked cars at night

Pollution is in the air for Madukkarai residents. Particularly for the 4,000-odd people in Kurumbapalayam, who say soot and dust from a cement factory in the neighbourhood is troubling them to no end.

Every morning, there is not a place that is not covered with the soot and dust, rues K.K. Velliangiri, a resident of the area and the Madukkarai union secretary of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

“We, the residents, cannot leave the food open as the dust settles on the top. The same is the case with water. We also cannot dry clothes in the open because of the same problem. In short, the dust is omnipresent in the area.”

V. Eswaran, district secretary, MDMK, says this has been the case for the past couple of years for the residents.

He and his party members led a demonstration by the residents in the city on Tuesday to highlight the problem and demand the district administration's intervention.

The factory usually lets out the soot or dust at night, after 10 p.m. In the morning, though, there is no such discharge, says A. Kumarasamy, a former Chairman of the Town Panchayat and a DMK member.

Mr. Velliangiri says that houses are covered with layers of dust and so are cars parked at night. And when it rains, it appears as if the houses or cars are painted in black.

The continuous exposure to the dust has also compromised the people's health, complains Mr. Eswaran. “The number of complaints of breathing problem, asthma, wheezing, eye irritation, etc. has gone up.”

The residents rue that their complaints in the last few years were not taken up seriously by either the district administration or the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.

The Board did install an equipment to monitor the ambient air quality but it soon removed it, they add.

Sources in the Board say that they are monitoring the air in two ways – through point sources and fugitive points.

Equipment placed at strategic points like chimney monitor the air quality.

The details of the air quality will soon be relayed on a real time basis to the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board headquarters and displayed on the website through the CARE Centre. The Board is also monitoring the air quality in places like stores and warehouses.

Based on the findings, it has asked the cement company to install water sprinklers, erect a five-foot galvanised iron sheet on the compound wall to increase the height of the barrier to 15 feet and take a few other measures as well. The company is in the process of completing the pollution-mitigation measures in the next couple of months, they say.

As for the quality of air in Kurumbapalayam, the Board sources say they are monitoring it twice a year.

The equipment is placed in the locality for the purpose and removed thereafter. It is not a permanent fixture there.

When contacted, the company's representatives promised to respond to the queries. But there was no response till the time of the report going to print.

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