Narambai:Fishing Village fights MNC

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The struggle of Narambai fishermen in driving away an MNC that tried to uproot them from their village is recorded here. A success story of people's resolve
  FISHING VILLAGEFIGHTS AGAINSTM.N.C Narambai is a fishing villageoff the Bay of Bengal withinthe territorial limits of theUnion Territory of Pondicherry. There was anattempt to evacuate theentire village to set up anoffshore LPG plant from theirtraditional homes where theywere pursuing theirprofession for centuries. The Congress Government led byV.Vaithialingam gave clearance to this project, which will hurt thefishing village. The Narambai fishing village Panchayat took upcudgels against this move which snow balled into a fight for finish toboth sides. We reproduce in verbatim a report from INDIAN EXPRESSdated 27.05.1995. LPG PROJECT NEAR PONDY COAST-IVILLAGERS WAKE UP TO ECO PROBLEMS, TOPROTEST  The residents of a cluster of villages in the Union Territory of Pondicherry are getting ready to take on a mega multi croreindustrial project which they fear will sound the death knell of notonly their livelihood, but also threaten their right to life. Whileenvironmental activists are jumping into the fray to stop thisproject, an encouraging sign is the manner in which theseuneducated villagers are arming themselves with simple technicalknowledge on what environmental and health hazards this projectmay pose for them. The 30 crore project to be put by the Southern LPG Limited, involvesthe setting up of an offshore floating terminal for importing LPG,taking the gas to the shore through a pipeline and bottling it. A40,000 ton capacity LPG tanker will be stationed 2.8 kms off theshore of Narambai, a village 17 kms from Pondicherry. What thevillagers and the environmental activists assisting them question isthe clearance given to the project by the Ministry of Environment inviolation of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) of the Environment 1  Protection Act of 1986. This stipulates that “no petrochemicalcomplex or petroleum refinery including crude and petroleumproduct pipelines should be allowed within 500 meters of the High Tide Line. But the project proposed itself says that activity will bewithin 300 meters of the high tide line.Slowly Narambai is gaining the support of about 15 surroundingvillages in its fight. On Thursday, Narambai Panchayat headA.Chandrasekar and representatives of his and other villages met atNagamuthu Mariamman temple to voice their fears. Interestinglythe temple archaga not only played host, but also participated in thediscussion of the hazards this project will cause to the village whenthe only means of livelihood is fishing.According to Chandrasekhar 43 acres of cultivable land has beenbought for the project in the heart of Narambai. A year ago landsurvey was done, and four months ago when a huge ship came foranother survey, we sat up, started asking questions and came toknow about this project.Defending the project Southern LPG General ManagerK.Shanmugasundaram said “in a country which is short of LPG, thisis a beneficial venture. Those objecting to it are ignorant and do notknow that we are taking all safety measures. The LPG will be takenfrom the ship through submarine pipelines and the bottling unit willbe located on the shore. The project should go on stream in fourmonths time.About CRZ, he said “We are not violating any regulation and the lawallows such activity beyond 200 meters from the High Tide Line incases where the activity requires a water front and foreshorefacilities.But Kishore Vangul, head of the Enviro Legal Cell of the CPREnvironment Education Center, a center for excellence of theMinistry of environment points out that even though the CRZregulations allow relaxation in such issues' several other parametersfrom Environment Impact assessment notification has to besatisfied. These relate to human settlements and displacement of population. The project report has falsely stated that the project isaway from major human settlements and there will be nodisplacement of the population.Time and again the Supreme Court has come to the rescue of people when there is a threat to right to life and livelihood and boththese dangers are very real in this case. The project proposal says150 people will be given jobs. But for this, is it right to take awaythe livelihood of thousands of people? 2  Director of The CPR Center, Nandita Krishna said “We will firstappeal to the company as well as the Ministry to have a reappraisalof the project. If this does not work we will help the people of theregion to go to Court, but only as a last resort.  The Environment Ministry cleared the project on January 19, 1995but subject to certain conditions. One of these is that adequatedistance should be kept from the Narambai village in consultationwith the Chief Controller of Explosives. It has also said for safetyreasons the tanker should be moved to high seas on receiving stormwarnings and a study should be done on the long term impact of theproject on fishing activities and its report submitted to this ministrywithin a year . But one wonders whether the Ministry should ask forsuch an assurance after clearing a project? Environmental Hazards of LPG Project-Part IIKNOWLEDGE IS POWER,DISCOVER THE PEOPLE OF NARAMBAI When a journalist goes to a fishing village to write about theconcern of the local people against the ecological threats posed tothem by a massive LPG project to come up at Narambai village inthe Union territory of Pondicherry, the last thing she expects to findthere is local youth voicing his concern about environmentaldegradation in the place by reeling off acronyms like the EPA orCRZ.But then Ramachandran( name fictitious as he had applied forgovernment job ) though he belongs to the toddy tappingcommunity of Pillayarkuppam has done his M.Sc in EnvironmentalScience from the Center for Pollution Control and Bio Waste Energyof Pondicherry University. Already there are 7 chemical industries within a radius of onekilometer from here, and the Pondicherry Papers is discharging itseffluents into the sea. During the last three years tube wells up to15 meters depth have been polluted by these chemical units. For 5years we had severe problems in getting potable water and onlyafter several representations has the Pondicherry Governmenttaken steps to provide us water during the last 3 months. Though noepidemiological studies have been made to assess the medicalproblems caused by these chemical industries, in the evenings thearea is completely under smoke. LPG is highly inflammable and the slightest accident might wipeout villages. And in a water starved area from where they will get 3  water to fight any fire which may break out he asks. (The clearancegranted by the Ministry of Environment to the project clearlystipulates that No wells should be dug for drawing fresh water fromthe ground. While there is such knowledgeable Ramachandiran there arethousands of illiterate villagers in the area. And yet the way theyhave armed themselves with simple technical knowledge about theproposed LPG project is amazing. Narambai Panchayat PresidentA.Chandraseksar says “As most of us are illiterates, there are only 3graduates in our village, we went to Pondicherry and with the helpof some sympathetic people in the Pondicherry Pollution ControlBoard, educated ourselves about the adverse effects of this project.After understanding the issue, last fortnight we submitted arepresentation to the board protesting against the project. But asnothing has come of it we will now meet the PondicherryLt.Governor Rajendra Kumari Bajpayee.What has disappointed him most is that their detailedrepresentation made to the Chief Justice of India on January 1, 1995appealing for Supreme Courts intervention in the matter has noteven got an acknowledgment. The people of the adjoining fishingvillages Pudukuppam and Pannithittu have also joined the struggleand a joint line of action has been charted out to include a dharna,hunger strike, rasta roko etc.Says Youth President of the Panchayat Velayuthan “When a singlegas cylinder explodes in a house how many people die? Here we aretalking about 40,000 tons of LPG. When out on the sea, most of ussmoke and one lighted beedi carelessly thrown can cause fire todestroy lives and property.Adds Panchayat Vice President V.Jayabalan “If we go anywhere nearthe LPG terminal our nets will get entangled in those pipes and wecan't afford to lose a net which costs around Rs 10,000.Chandrasekar raises a more valid point. “During the last few yearsall kinds of chemical units have cropped up in this region andpolluted our water resources. And the Pondicherry Paper Milldischarges its effluent through a pipeline into the sea. Already someof us have lost our nets when got entangled with those pipes. Whenthe mill came up in the late 1970's, we did not envisage thisproblem. With chemically polluted water our children are constantlysuffering from dysentery, cholera and skin diseases. And we do notknow what other problems our future generations may face. Dispelling the fishermen's fears about their netsMr.Shanmugasundaram from Southern LPG said “As our pipeline will 4
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