People affected by pollution from small-scale plywood industries in Perumbavoor have declared a war of sorts.

After petitions and rallies failed to evoke the desired result the residents formed a samithi and started a satyagraha in the true Gandhian way, about two months ago. At present, one of their representatives is on a ‘fast unto death’ in front of the collectorate.

The core issue is that the industrial units are scattered around residential areas. They spew fumes into the air that settle down in the wells nearby. The fumes also cause suffocation. Water bodies are polluted when untreated effluents from many units are discharged into them.

Though the Pollution Control Board intervened to resolve the issue, residents alleged that it lacked teeth and was acting on behalf of the affluent industrial lobby. Meetings convened at the district-level could not provide solutions to end the impasse.

Till November 2011, industrial units were allowed to be set up at a distance of 10 metres from residences. The minimum distance was later increased to 50 metres.

In view of the protests, the plywood industry has got into a defensive mode. “Is it the fault of the entrepreneur?” asked M.M. Mujeeb Rahman, president of Sawmill Owners & Plywood Manufacturers’ Association, who owns a unit in Perumbavoor. He alleged that those who were protesting against the units were working on behalf of a north Indian lobby which was interested in annihilating the thriving plywood units in Kerala as it had affected the business in north India.

However, Varghese Pulluvazhy, who heads the agitation under the banner of Action Council for Environmental Protection, termed the allegations baseless.

The Council has demanded that the polluting units should be closed down or have to be relocated, away from the thickly populated area.

The industrial units declared a shut-down a few days ago in protest against the demand.


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