S.R. Nayak, Chairman SHRC, said on Monday that the Deputy Commissioner should visit the villages affected by the alleged pollution caused by of the coal-based thermal plant of UPCL within a week.

S R Nayak was speaking at a meeting after receiving petitions on human rights issues here. (The Deputy Commissioner was not present at the meeting as he was in Mysore on account of Legislative Council elections).

The former president of Yellur Gram Panchayat Shashidhar Shetty said that people in 10 villages faced hardship owing to pollution from the Udupi Power Corporation Ltd. Coal was not being properly stored in the plant. Discharge of effluents from the plant had contaminated wells and destroyed crops. Children and elderly persons suffered from health problems such as cough and allergies because of fly-ash generated at the plant.

Politicians and the district administration turned a blind eye to these problems. The Deputy Commissioner had promised the people a few months ago that a committee would look into their problems, but nothing happened. Gram panchayats had passed resolutions urging the Government to shift the thermal plant as it was not suited to the region. “Forget human rights, we don't even have the right to live. The SHRC should visit the affected villages”, he said.

Mr. Shetty presented samples of contaminated water in two bottles to State Human Rights Commission members. People had to go five km to get potable water, he said.

Mr. Nayak said potable water was connected to right to live. Contaminated water violated the right to health of the people. People should give samples of contaminated water to the Deputy Commissioner for testing. If necessary, SHRC would get the water tested in a laboratory trusted by the people of the affected villages. “While development is essential, it cannot be at the cost of life,” he said.

Bharat Kumar of Yermal village said 302 traditional (“Kairampani”) fishermen had been promised by the then Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa that they would given a compensation of Rs. 2 lakh each in 2010 owing to the problems caused by UPCL pipelines. Even the Deputy Commissioner had directed UPCL to release cheques through the tahsildar. But there had been no action on it, he said.

Mr. Nayak said that Chief Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda hailed from this region and fishermen should talk to him. SHRC would take up the issue with the State Government, he said.

Gururaj, head of Geleyara Balaga, said many children of migrant workers should be provided education.

Mr. Nayak directed Chief Executive Officer of the zilla panchayat Prabhakar Sharma to coordinate with the departments of Public Instruction, Fisheries and Labour, and take steps to admit these children to government schools.