It has been 15 days since the residents of many villages in Ennore launched their protest against Coromandel International Limited (CIL) company, following an ammonia gas leak from its plant which has caused widespread panic among the residents.
Around 30 villages in Ennore have come together and are organising peaceful sit-in protests outside CIL, by taking turns. The protesters have been demanding CIL to suspend its operations permanently citing safety concerns and overall distrust. On December 26, the day of the gas leak, the company did not ring an emergency alarm to alert residents and reportedly failed to help the residents to evacuate them to safety, they alleged. Several residents fainted gasping for breath and were rushed to the hospital.
Vinayagam, a resident from Ernakuppam village, who is participating in the protest told TNM that they have prepared plans for a sustained campaign against the fertiliser company. He said that they have asked all the village heads to ensure that the protests are carried out with a good strength of people. “Despite days of protest, our concerns are yet to be addressed. Though it was raining on January 7 and 8, residents continued to protest. We definitely do not want the company to continue operations,” Vinayagam asserted.
CIL has shut operations temporarily from December 27. Noting this, Celcha, a resident of Periyakuppam, which is located in close proximity to the plant, said, “Since the company has not been operating, we have started feeling a difference in the air that we are breathing. It is so much lighter when compared to how dense and dusty it used to be before.” Celcha was among those who were hospitalised due to the gas leak.
“I am only in my 30s and the leak has already made it difficult for me to breathe. If I walk a certain distance or climb stairs, I find myself gasping for air which is very new because that wasn’t the case before the gas leak,” she said, adding that they will not withdraw their protest until a permanent solution is found.
On Tuesday, January 9, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) founder Thol Thirumavalavan also participated in the people’s protest in Thalankuppam, located 2 kms away from CIL’s plant. While addressing the crowd, Thirumavalavan emphasised on the need for residents to continue their protests. “I believe that the demands of the people are rightful and the government should ensure that the plant is shut permanently,” he said.
By referring to the suo-motu case by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) against CIL, Thirumavalavan remarked, “I believe that the NGT’s case is not helping the people in finding a solution swiftly. Only the intervention by the government and Chief Minister (CM) MK Stalin can help them. I will escalate this to the CM.”
It may be noted that the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and CIL have not submitted the reports detailing the incident as requested by the NGT for the suo-motu case. The last hearing on January 8, was adjourned and the parties have been allowed time until February 6 to furnish detailed reports of the leak.