A month since ammonia leak, Ennore residents continue protest seeking action beyond hollow assurances

Despite meeting and writing to several officials, the villagers of Ennore have not received any detailed report on how the leak happened, or when the last safety drill was conducted

January 24, 2024 08:48 pm | Updated January 25, 2024 09:04 am IST - CHENNAI

Residents of Periyakuppam and other villages protesting outside Coromandel International Limited in Ennore on Tuesday.

Residents of Periyakuppam and other villages protesting outside Coromandel International Limited in Ennore on Tuesday. | Photo Credit: B. Jothi Ramalingam

Residents of Ennore continue to protest against Coromandel International Limited, one month after ammonia leaked from the fertilizer unit in the late hours of December 26, 2023, demanding that it be shut.

Despite meeting and writing to several officials, who assured the villagers of action against the company, they have not received any detailed report on how the leak happened, or when the last safety drill was conducted even as a police case was registered against 20 protesters.

On Tuesday, around 100 villagers from Kamalammal Nagar, Kaveri Nagar, Sivanpadai Kuppam, Bhadrakali Amman Nagar in Ennore gathered at the protest site. Four out of 33 villages, which have come together to form the Ennore People’s Protection Group, take turns to protest everyday.

“Coromandel is a big company. They will have many businesses. If not Ennore, they can do business and make money anywhere. But we have nowhere else to go. We are only asking [the company] to spare our lives,” said Lionel, one of the protesters, from Thazhankuppam.

Also read: Stop Ennore from ‘becoming another Bhopal’, fishermen associations urge Chief Minister

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has sought time till February 6 to file a detailed report before the southern bench of the National Green Tribunal, which had taken suo motu cognisance of the gas leak.

Bhagath Singh, one of the representatives of Ennore People’s Protection Group, told The Hindu that in the absence of official documents on the incident or information about the company, its ammonia shipment, periodic emission details, the villagers do not have leverage to tighten their case. Information on the last few safety audits done in the company has been sought through the Right to Information Act and a response is awaited.

“Only if the company is closed can we live in peace. We are now constantly living in fear about the ammonia. The leak was a small one, but if it had happened for longer than 15 minutes, we all would not be alive today,” said Radhika and Sheela of Ennore. They reiterated that pungent odour from gas leaks have been a regular affair in the locality for at least two decades.

Protesters and representatives said monetary compensation was not part of their demands and stressed on action against the company as ‘promised’ by the officials.

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