R. Ramabhadran Pillai

People planning agitation against the pollution caused by the factories

The new ventures are highly polluting, says a resident.

KOCHI: Rayamangalam, a panchayat area in Perumbavoor, about 50 km from Kochi, is slowly turning into a busy centre of industrial enterprises. But the industrial progress, marked by the sight of smoke and sound of running machinery, is slowly turning the valley of peaceful life into a horrid zone.

The panchayat has become a beehive of activity thanks to the new plywood factories already opened in residential areas. More of them are to be opened in the days ahead. About 15 licences have already been sanctioned while 25 more are being processed by authorities, according to residents of the area.

The people who oppose the setting up of new factories in residential localities have joined together and formed a forum, ‘Janakeeya Samara Samithi’.

A human chain was organised recently by the samithi to highlight the plight of villagers whose very existence is under threat from the polluted environment created by the new ventures. They have taken up the issue with the government and plan to strengthen the agitation.

The new ventures are highly polluting, posing serious threat to drinking water sources, says Rajesh Kumar, one of the activists.

The plywood units have scant regard for the environment, he alleges. While the units secure initial clearance from the Pollution Control Board, taking care to follow the regulations, the restrictions are given the go-by eventually, he says.

About 100 plywood units are functioning in the panchayat area, having a population of about 60,000 people, says P.H. Sabu, secretary of the samithi. The wells in the vicinity of the factories are polluted. The fumes from the units settle down as black particles in areas nearby, he says.

The local people have yet another complaint: the units employ workers from outside the State.

In fact, the majority of workers hail from other States, says Mr. Sabu. There have been instances of involvement of at least a few workers in these units in criminal activities. There could be even extremist elements among them, according to him.

Industrial enterprises trying to expand their domain contrary to the wishes of the local populace is not a new issue in Kerala.

New ventures often derive support from the unemployed strata of society while the authorities consider fresh investments as a mark of progress on the industrial front.

But, if industrial advancement sounds the death knell to the peaceful life of the rural folk, it should be a matter of serious concern.