Workers and owners of lime kilns seek alternative site

Fifty-eight-year-old Yesu has been working at a lime kiln in Korukkupet for nearly four decades. Following a decision of the Chennai Corporation recently, he is unsure of how long he would continue to have the job.

The civic body has decided to take control of its land on which 26 kilns are located. Together, they employ over 200 workers like him.

“The lime kiln functions only for 3 or 4 days in a week and is closed during the monsoon. I started working as a youngster when my father was employed here and I know no other trade. My family depends on my earnings, of Rs.150 to Rs.200 a day,” he said. The kilns located along a waterway are spread approximately over 80 grounds. The process of making lime from sea shells is labour-intensive.

Mani, a worker at one of the kilns, explained that a mixture of powdered coal and shells is filled and fired in the kilns for about 4-5 hours. Water is sprinkled on the shells as part of the cooling process. Workers then make the shells into powder which is used for white washing walls.

Mayor M. Subramanian said the land had been leased out by the civic body in 1969 for 20 years to the Chennai Chunnaambu Siru Thozhil Vyabarigal Sangam. “Even after expiry of the lease period, they continued to enjoy the property. They owe the Corporation over Rs.4 crore as dues. Several cases that the association had filed against the civic body have been decided in our favour.”

However, the workers and members of the Sangam are hoping that an alternative site would be provided to them. “With lime being manufactured in largescale by companies, we do not have much of a market but we are managing to pull on. If the Corporation closes down this place, we would lose our jobs,” said Mr.Mani.

Councillor D. Lakshmi said that she had written to the Mayor and officials asking them to provide another site in Kodungaiyur that belongs to the Corporation. “Residents have been complaining that the smoke from the kilns affected them. But, this alternative location is not near any residential area. If a portion of the 16-acre land is provided to these people, their livelihood will not be affected,” she said.

Corporation Commissioner Rajesh Lakhoni said the civic body would look into the demand.


Deepa H. RamakrishnanJune 28, 2012