A controversy over illegal dumping of medical waste from Kerala has arisen in Coimbatore after 24 truck drivers were arrested for allegedly attempting to dump waste in a plot in Etimadai. Coimbatore police registered a suo motu case at the Coimbatore Sessions Court on Wednesday, and the 24 truck drivers were remanded to judicial custody till November 10.
The attempt to dump waste came to light on Monday, when residents of Etimadai stopped the 24 lorries when they were on their way to dump waste on land owned by a man called Chellapa Gounder.
Police also registered cases against Chellapa Gounder and two persons named Shaji and Shabir, who allegedly contracted with Chellapa to dump waste on a part of his land, under Section 270 of the IPC (malignant act likely to spread infection of disease dangerÂous to life).
Speaking to The News Minute, Arul Shakti, an advocate representing the arrested truck drivers, said that there was no illegality involved in the dumping. â€śThe waste was not medical waste and it was not dumped on a public place. Two scrap dealers from Palakkad in Kerala â€“ Shaji and Shabir â€“ had leased land from a man called Chellapa Gounder. We also have the rent agreement. The waste was being dumped in that place in Etimadai,â€ť he said.
On Tuesday, members of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) protested outside the Pollution Control Board in Coimbatore demanding stringent measures to prevent dumping of medical waste.
Eswaran Velusamy, State Secretary of the youth wing of MDMK said that for the last 10 years medical waste from Kerala was being dumped in Coimbatore. â€śIt mainly comes from Kozhikode and gets dumped in the border areas of Coimbatore. I have filed complaints with the Pollution Control Board, but the Tamil Nadu government has not taken any strict action against the culprits,â€ť he said.
He claims that private dealers collect waste from the Kozhikode corporation, bring it to Coimbatore, sell all recyclable items and dump the rest there.
The diversion of waste from Kerala to Tamil Nadu also comes close at the heels of a controversy in Kerala over dumping of medical waste. A news investigation had shown how waste was being dumped in the Malampuzha dam and river, that is situated next to the only bio-medical waste treatment facility in Kerala. CPI(M) leader VS Achutanandan had intervened, and demanded that the dumping should be stopped immediately. The Malampuzha dam is situated in Palakkad district, that borders Coimbatore.
Many local activists are also up in arms against this practice. â€śHow can waste cross the border and be dumped here without the knowledge of both the governments,â€ť asked S Sivasekar, a social activist. â€śThe Tamil Nadu government needs to take strict against the people who dump waste in Coimbatore,â€ť he said.
Following a public outcry, the district administration has asked officials to maintain strict vigils at check posts at the Kerala border and make sure that no waste crosses into Tamil Nadu. Sources in the Revenue Department told The Hindu that the collector had given instructions to Revenue Inspectors and Village Administrative Officers in Madukkarai, Etimadai , Mavuthampathi, Thirumalayampalayam and Pichanur villages to ensure no dumping of medical waste takes place. He has also reportedly asked field officers to work with the local people to get immediate information about any cases of dumping.