Though the licences were granted by the panchayat about seven years ago, the issue of pollution was brought to the notice of the panchayat only a month ago.

The people’s action group protesting against polluting plywood manufacturing units in Perumbavoor and nearby localities in Ernakulam district tasted some success on Saturday when a panchayat in the area initiated action for cancelling the licences of two units. The final decision will be taken within 10 days by which time a report from the Pollution Control Board (PCB) is expected.

Koovappady panchayat president P.Y. Paulose told The Hindu that a sub-committee constituted by the panchayat had looked into the issue raised by the people’s action forum. The panel made a spot study and found that pollution from the units posed a threat to houses in areas near the two units. Though the licences were granted by the panchayat about seven years ago, the issue of pollution was brought to the notice of the panchayat only a month ago, he said.

A meeting of representatives of the people’s group, the company concerned and the panchayat was held on Saturday in which the PCB was also expected to take part. However, the PCB official failed to turn up. The panchayat sub-committee has asked the PCB to give a report by January 15. A meeting of the panchayat, to be held subsequently, will decide on the future of the units.

Meanwhile, the Paristhithi Samrakshana Karma Samithi, which has been staging a ‘fast unto death’ in front of the collectorate, has decided to take out a march to the District Medical Officer’s office at Ernakulam General Hospital, on January 19. About 500 residents of localities affected by the pollution from plywood units would participate in the march, Samithi president Varghese Pulluvazhy told The Hindu.

Representatives of the samithi did not participate in a meeting convened in Thiruvananthapuram to discuss the issue a few days ago. Mr. Verghese alleged that the meeting was convened at the behest of the owners of the plywood units.

M.M. Mujeeb Rahman, president of Sawmill Owners & Plywood Manufacturers’ Association, said the meeting convened in the chamber of Industries Minister P.K. Kunhalikutty, took stock of the situation and allowed the plywood units to adopt revised norms within a year. The units were also allowed to continue work during night hours, subject to norms set by Pollution Control Board.

The association which had declared a strike has decided to withdraw the agitation, according to Mr. Rahman.

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