ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Cleaning Chaliyar River: Pollution Control or Jobs?

"Grasim Industries at Mavoor in Kerala plans to close shop and walk away from the river it polluted, the bamboo forests it destroyed and the hundreds who took ill from the air and water pollution it caused. Citizen and environmentalist are demanding compensation for the victims of pollution while political parties are defending the management.

Many heaved a sigh of relief when the Birla-owned Grasim Industries(GI) at Mavoor, Kerala filed an application before the state government under the Industrial Disputes Act seeking permission to shut down the pulp and staple fibre divisions of the factory with effect from November 30. But they soon realised that GI was stooping only to conquer. It is too early to forget the management’s skilful manipulation of the dramatic turn of events following a series of suicides committed by factory workers when GI was closed down for nearly three and a half years during 1985-88. This time GI has apparently sought to invoke one of the crucial clauses of the notorious accord signed between the state government and the management in 1988 pertaining to the supply of raw materials to the factory in the required quantity and quality.

Certainly the GI management seeks to hold sway over the state government to release more raw materials at subsidised rates. This comes at a time when the government itself is under pressure to take action against the factory’s pollution, which has caused horrendous damage to environment. What is significant is that the management has successfully diverted public attention from the very question of industrial pollution which the people of Kerala have been addressing most seriously over a period of time, thereby pushing to the forefront an intricate subject for public debate, that is, the very survival of 3,000 factory workers and several hundreds who indirectly depend on the industry. It is for this reason that the Chaliyar Action Council (CAC) and other environmentalists, who have been demanding permanent closure of the factory to end the pollution of air and water, believe that the closure application is yet another manipulation by the management to escape paying compensation for the extensive damage to environment caused by effluents discharged into the Chaliyar river.

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