Skip to main content
xYOU DESERVE INDEPENDENT, CRITICAL MEDIA. We want readers like you. Support independent critical media.

TN: Ennore Traders Down Shutters, Demand Permanent Closure of Coromandel International Ltd

The traders of 33 villages around Ennore in Chennai shut their shops in support of the protesting villagers demanding the closure of CIL after the Ammonia leak last December.

Women participated in large numbers in the road blockade, demanding the permanent closure of Coromandel International Limited for failing to ensure safety measures. (Image courtesy: Dr Bhagath Singh)

After the dangerous Ammonia gas leak in the Coromandel International Limited (CIL) unit in Ennore on December 26 last year, the traders of 33 surrounding villages downed their shutters on February 6, urging the state government to close the unit permanently. The residents continue protesting in front of the unit for the 42nd day. Instead of a single protest in front of the main gate of the CIL, road blockades were held in all villages with the participation of more than 8,000 people.

The report by the expert committee on the gas leak was also submitted before the Southern Region office of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in Chennai. However, the Ennore People's Protection Committee has questioned the contents of the report submitted by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) based on the expert committee findings.

The people of Ennore and the surrounding villages accused the CIL of not putting the emergency alert system into place and TNPCB of not ensuring the compliance of the emergency precautionary measures in such manufacturing organisations.

The seven-member expert committee constituted by the government of Tamil Nadu submitted their recommendations on February 4, following which the government directed the TNPCB to implement all the recommendations. However, the residents of Ennore, led by the Residents Protection Committee, accused the report of downplaying the terrible lapses on the part of the CIL in ensuring several preventive mechanisms.

Dr Bhagath Singh, a resident of Ennore and Anthropologist, questioned why the government agencies failed to check whether such manufacturing units were let off despite not ensuring basic security measures. “There are no details of the off-site safety preparedness plan despite the manufacturing unit being in operation for the past 67 years. The report doesn't even mention the amount of Ammonia leaked on the particular day,” he said.

The traders, continuously extending support to the agitating residents, announced holding a dawn-to-dusk strike after the expert committee's recommendations were made public. The residents of all 33 villages surrounding Ennore joined the protest by holding a road blockade, with the participation of around 8,000 people who courted arrest.


Image: A solidarity gathering organised by the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers and Artists Association, extending support to the residents of the surroundings of Ennore (Courtesy: Dr Bhagath Singh)

“Most of the expert committee's recommendations need to be ensured even for commissioning such a manufacturing unit. The recommendations include an increase in the number of ammonia sensors, installation of the water curtain system, exploring the option to provide sirens, and an automatic tripping system. What the regulating agencies have been doing for the past several years remains a misery for us,” Singh added.

The expert committee has also recommended the CIL conduct onsite and off-site emergency preparedness by credible agencies for both Ammonium Phosphate Potash Sulphate (APPS) and Ammonia storage. It further asked the organisation to replace the existing pipeline and ensure an accident prevention system.

“From these recommendations, we can understand the magnitude of violations in the organisations and the neglect from the government bodies. The TNPCB has to clarify how the organisation was permitted to proceed with manufacturing works,” Singh said.

The report has recommended collecting Rs 5.92 crores as compensation for environmental mitigation and taking legal action against the unit for non-compliance as per the Air Act.

Singh accused the expert committee of not even listing the violations by the organisation that manufactures different fertilisers. “Only two recommendations have been listed out about collecting fines and taking legal action. The lives of several thousands of people are at stake, with highly poisonous gases being handled by the organisation,” he added.

The protest of the Ennore residents attracted support from different political parties, writers and artists associations, academicians and civil society organisations.

Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.

Subscribe Newsclick On Telegram