Saturday, April 01, 2017

Andhra workers' death in West Godavari: Civil rights network had prewarned of high level of pollution a week earlier

By Our Representative
A civil rights network has revealed that it had pre-warned the Andhra Pradesh government authorities about extremely high levels of pollution coming out of the Ananda Aqua Food processing unit in Nallamavari Thota village of West Godavari district, where five persons died as a result of asphyxiation on March 30 as they were cleaning up a chemical tank.
Comprising of Ramakrishnam Raju and Meera Sanghamitra (National Convenors, National Alliance of People’s Movements or NAPM), Vimala Morthala (activist and writer), Babji (Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruttidarula Union), Rajesh and Rohit (Human Rights Forum) and Rahul (Freelance Journalist), the team had visited the village on the March 25, 2017 “in the wake of people’s complaints and similar factory owned by the same group.”
Revealing this, the National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) claims. “The fact-finding team learnt from the locals that the industry, which was built in 2012, used to release foul smell since its inception.”
NAPM says, “The villagers informed the fact finding team that one-sixth of the people left the village in the last one year because of the pungent stench and some of them even sold off their lands.”
It adds, “Youngsters, whom this team interacted with felt that they have no other option except to leave the village if the government didn’t intervene and do something to salvage the situation.”
In fact, NAPM says, “The villagers signed a petition against the factory a month ago which forced the sub-collector to visit the village and give a warning to the management of the factory to construct wastage tanks.”
“However”, it adds, “the villagers allege that the management was hand in glove with the political class, because of which neither they, nor the sub-collector, could do anything, and the company got away with cosmetic measures.”
Those who died in the accident are Eega Yedukondalu, Nalla Yedukondalu, Boddu Rambabu, Thota Srinu and Jakkamsetty Praveen, all daily wage workers and residents of Nallamavari Thota village.
Pointing out that the accident “is a direct consequence of non-compliance of prescribed regulations as per the mandate of the Environmental (Protection) Act, 1986 and other rules”, NAPM says, “The factory, in a bid to maximize the profits is not recycling the waste and instead dumping it into the Gontheru Canal, which is livelihood for 50,000 fis”her people and another 50,000 acres of farm land and fish tanks is likely to be polluted.”
Underling that, prima facie, that Andhra Pradesh government and the Ananda Group of industries are responsible for the environmental degradation and air-water pollution in the region, NAPM regrets indiscriminate expansion allowed to the Ananda group of industries, which owns and operates eight other industries in the region.
“Their proposal and persistence to go ahead with the Mega Aqua Food Park in Tundurru, which is said to be 20 times more harmful than the existing factories, despite massive public resistance is indicative of the clout that the company wields in this region”, it adds.
Insisting that the Andhra Pradesh government and the Ananda Group are “responsible prima facie for criminal negligence and environmental violations leading to the (avoidable) death of the five workers today”, NAPM demands “immediate institution of a judicial inquiry with a sitting judge of the High Court into this incidenteven as scrapping the the Mega Aqua Food Park in Tundurru, “which has the potential to cause enormous and irreversible damage.”

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