The Pollution Control Board is making arrangements to install gadgets to assess environmental pollution in Vengola panchayat in Ernakulam district.
The initiative is being taken in accordance with a Supreme Court directive to assess the pollution levels in the area.
T. K. Kurien, a resident of the area, had approached the apex court, seeking relocation of plywood manufacturing units from the residential area. Mr. Kurien said he had filed a writ petition in the Kerala High Court earlier on the issue and an advocates’ commission submitted a report which reportedly sought measures including relocation of the units in order to curb pollution. A single bench of the high court had issued a directive to take appropriate action which was later suspended by a larger bench.
The Pollution Control Board had surveyed the area and submitted a report to the apex court two months ago. A top official of the PCB told The Hindu that the petition pertained to a cluster of units and the Board had advocated measures to be adopted by the units. An examination of the area by PCB officials did not reveal any alarming levels of pollution, the official said.
Instruments to monitor pollution were being installed as part of a scheme to monitor the air quality in the area on a 24-hour basis.
Mr. Kurien said officials from forest and medical departments too visited the place. He expressed scepticism over the outcome of the visit as the officials were allegedly keen to meet only the functionaries and supporters of the units, omitting ordinary people.
A considerable number of units operating in the area belonged to the kin of certain local body members, according to him.
About 60 units were operating in a one square km area at Kuttippadam, one of the worst affected areas, he said. He had approached the high court after testing the quality of water in the well in his house at a public laboratory. The test proved that the water was unfit for consumption, he said.
An empowered committee set up by the State government was authorised to monitor the functioning of wood-based units, with a view to curb destruction of forests. But several plywood units provide wrong affidavits that only rubber wood is being used though different kinds of wood are utilised, he said. The court had ordered on April 23 this year a joint inspection by PCB, forest department and Ernakulam District Medical Officer. The report was to be submitted within 6 weeks, he said.
Varghese Pulluvazhy, chairman of the environment protection committee which was formed mainly to tackle the pollution issue, said though the authorities had given an assurance a few months ago to put a stop to the opening of new units in the areas under dispute, 8 units were opened since then in Asamannoor, nearby.
These units were apparently given permission prior to the assurance. The committee is spearheading an agitation to resolve the issue. It organised a massive dharna a month ago at the collectorate. The organisation is planning to intensify the agitation demanding relocation of the units.