Ennore erupts in protest after Ammonia leak, residents want CIL held accountable

Residents demand Coromandel International Limited, to take responsibility for not ringing the emergency alarm, for not helping them evacuate their homes, and for not creating situational awareness for emergencies like these.
Protestors demanding Coromandel International Limited to shut operations permanently after ammonia gas leak
Protestors demanding Coromandel International Limited to shut operations permanently after ammonia gas leakNidharshana Raju
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Ennore residents, on Wednesday, December 27, protested outside the Southern and Northern gates of the Coromandel International Limited (CIL), a fertiliser manufacturing company owned by the Murugappa group, from where Ammonia gas leaked on Tuesday. The protestors want the company to cease operations permanently and are seeking CIL’s accountability. Although residents protesting outside the northern gate called off their strike around 6 pm on Wednesday, stating that they will fight the case legally, residents - mainly from Periyakuppam and Chinnakuppam -who are outside the southern gate have refused to call off protests.

Devi, a resident of Periyakuppam, told TNM, “They have an emergency alarm in the company. Once the workers realised that there was some gas leak, why couldn’t they alert us by ringing the alarm? People who were returning late after work came and banged on our doors to alert us. Eventually, they started bleeding from their ears and nose. If the company was responsible, they should have immediately helped us evacuate our homes, they should have arranged for buses or ambulances but they did nothing.” 

Devi was among those who began protesting at 6 am on Wednesday. She said, “We have been sitting for more than eight hours but no one from the company has come to speak to us.” 

CIL did not release a report regarding the incident and the residents alleged that no official from the company’s side communicated with the people despite protesting. Vijaya, another resident of Priyakuppam said that the protestors are not demanding compensation from the government or the private company. “We are not protesting for money. Gas leaks have happened here before this as well. So, we are protesting for a permanent solution to protect our lives and most importantly the lives of our children. We will continue this protest for days and months on end until we arrive at a solution,” Vijaya added. Protestors also alleged that the company has not created awareness among the residents. “Because of no awareness, people here began to panic and they ran for their lives,” Vijaya said.

According to police reports, 50 people were hospitalised after the gas leak, while hundreds of residents sought medical attention at the camps which have been set up in the neighbouring areas. A doctor from the medical camp told TNM that several residents have complained of nausea, throat, skin, and eye irritation and breathing difficulties. “Most of them have experienced mild trouble with breathing and have felt giddiness. We are treating residents with mild symptoms here with medicines,” the doctor said.

Fishers from the region also alleged that several dead fish washed ashore on Wednesday morning. Residents claim that the marine life has been affected severely since the pressure in the pipelines on the sea bed transporting ammonia dropped, causing the leak. Vishanth, a local resident said, “Several fish varieties including Koduva and Oodan washed ashore this morning. We think that we will only be able to understand the complete impact of the gas leak on fish by Thursday or Friday.” Some of these dead fish were displayed at the protesting site to symbolise the loss of fishers’ livelihood. 

Dead fish that allegedly washed ashore after ammonia gas leaked in the sea bed at Ennore
Dead fish that allegedly washed ashore after ammonia gas leaked in the sea bed at EnnoreNidharshana Raju

Recently the oil spill from Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited (CPCL) disrupted the livelihoods of fishers, damaged the marine ecosystem and caused ill-health to residents. 

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