HUL Push for New Standards of Clean-up Rejected by Local Area Environment Committee

CHENNAI: Could the move by Hindustan Unilever to bring down mercury level in the factory site to 20mg/kg pose no threat to to the ecologically sensitive watershed in Kodaikanal?

The Local Area environment Committee says ‘No’ by rejecting the proposal mooted by Hindustan Unilever during a closed door meeting called up by Tamil Nadu Pollution control Board officials on Wednesday.

Fourteen years have passed after Hindustan Unilever dumped mercury bearing wastes in and around factory posing a posing a threat not only to the residents but also to the ecologically sensitive Pambar Shola. And Navroz Mody, who was summoned for his comments on the proposal mooted by Hindustan Unilever, was in no mood to compromise.

“This sort of cleaning is recognised for residential area. But Pambar Shola is not a residential area, the standrads for urban residential area can’t be applied to undisturbed forests,” said Mody.

He was speaking to Express after the hurriedly convened meeting by Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board officials, which was attended by scientific exepert committee, local area environment committee, working committee, Kodaikanal municipal chairman, RDO of Kodaikanal and Hindustan Unilever on soil remediation at the factory site.

Activists feel that if the clean-up by Hindustan Unilever is done as per 20mg/Kg, nearly 100 kg of mercury would be left behind in the factory site. “This could leach into the soil and people of Tamil Nadu and Kodaikanal will have to pay a heavy price,” said Mody.

Interestingly, the standards mooted by Unilever was the same that it had pushed six years ago. Interestingly, NGOs then had refused to accept it during that time.

Activists are pushing for ecological standard of clean-up while taking into the safety of Western Ghats but officials argue that India does not have any norms on Mercury clean-up.

TNPCB sources said that Central Pollution Control Board has yet to fix norms on the permissible limits of mercury. “India does not have any fixed norms,” the TNPCB source said.

But then activists argue that would Unilever moot the same standards if it was in America or Europe.

Mahendran, president of former worker of Ponds Hindustan Unilever questioned the organising of the meeting in a hotel. “it should have been organised at TNPCB office or in Kodaikanal itself with people’s participation. He said the meeting was just to elicit our opinion. “it is not a discussion,” he said.

Mahendran said that till now a solution has yet to be worked out to clean up contamination in 33 acres of land.