Chemical Hub – Our concerns and fears
In the process of acquisition of land for making Chemical Hub in Nandigram, the people’s strong resistance forced the Left Front Government to step back. The Chief minister almost cursed when he said “Let Nandigram be submerged in darkness. Haldia shall be lighted.” Then on, the State Government, terrified by the people’s struggle, had decided to acquire land in areas where there would be no resistance. Thus they had chosen Nayachar. The approval by the Finance Department, Environment Department, or approval of the locale by the process of open discussion is yet to be done. But approval has come from the ministry. We are concerned. We are terrified. Because, we are responsible to our co-citizens: we are responsible to our children, the next generation.
In Europe, the regulation that have been imposed on Petrochemical Industry, is called Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals. In USA, the regulation is named Toxic Substances Control Act. Getting approval for ultimate pollution creating and accident prone Chemical Industry, especially for Petrochemical Industry, in the Developed countries, is practically impossible now. Also, the costs of pollution control are huge .Therefore, capital has taken the policy of ‘Look at the East’. They are coming to Nayachar. Here they will bring their know-how and raw materials. We have to give our natural wealth – water, land, air and cheap labour.
? Where ever, there have been such an industry, it has been observed that the wastes are thrown in or they mix with the water, soil and air of that area. And, while transporting, seepage of chemicals is a very common occurrence. Nayachar Industrial Hub will not be an exception to this. The poisonous chemicals that would mix in the water, will spread from Nabodweep to Sundarbans via rivers like Huglee, Haldi, Rupnarayan, Damodar, Icchamoti and numerous other creeks of Sundarbans. These shores are densely populated:
around 4 crore people live here. 463 crore gallons of water used in Greater Kolkata is provided from the river Huglee. The water used in the adjacent areas comes from the local rivers, ponds or underground sources. This water too will be polluted. The pollution will spread in the cultivatable lands. The geo-diversity will be destroyed. Fish and other aquatic animals will be affected. Chemical poison will creep into the food-chain and result in dangerous incurable diseases. Not only that, this poison will bring about changes in the chemistry of the human body! In the resultant Genetic and hormonal imbalance, people will lose the power of procreation. This destruction will affect generations. And the multitude of this disaster will blur the fearful memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki! However, the process will be rather slow: but inevitable.
? The air will be polluted with poisonous gas. The South-West Monsoon wind will spread this poison to the core of the country. The geographical location of West Bengal is such that its shores are lashed often by cyclones. Thunderstorms, at the speed of 230 km/hr sometimes hit the shores of our neighbour Bangladesh. If such storms change course and turn towards West Bengal, not only the people of the state shall be affected, but the dream project of Mr. Buddhodeb too, shall not be spared! Also, pollution will spread rapidly to the rest of the country.
? The natural chemistry can decompose and mix with nature. But those petrochemicals, which form by synthesis (like PVC and other alike plastics), cannot decompose into the soil. The effects of these chemicals are long lasting and can endanger ecology.
? In the developed countries also there were no ways to control these chemical pollutants that have long lasting effect. They have now realized the result of such negligence. In our country, this area hasn’t entered into the thought process of our policymakers. In our country, the existing pollution control laws are pretty slack. The multinational companies take advantage of this and manufacture several banned chemicals. The single example of the incidence of Bhupal Gas leakage, is enough to prove how callous and utterly irresponsible our government is, in regard to the safety and security of its countrymen! Also, hearsay is, the total area to be utilized by PCPIR will be a SEZ zone. And in a SEZ
the rules and regulations applicable else where, will be inactive. The will of the commissioner there, will be the law.
? Now let us discuss about Jurong. Nayachar is being compared to it. And this is a big joke. Topographically, there is hardly any similarity between the two places. Jurong is an island of hard rock. Nayachar is the result of fresh siltation. It’s hardly 70-75 yrs old; having an area of, more or less, 50 sq km. Its process of land-formation is yet to be completed. The island is barely 11/2 m high from the sea level, though it has to face 5 metres high tidal waves. To save it from drowning it must at least be raised by 4 metres! The proposed industrial hub would require 250sq km (Kolkata is 185 sq km). Which means land will need to be connected. They would swallow Haldia too!
? Around 2010, there will be about 15,000 new jobs in Jurong. In the present day, in the capital oriented industries, on an average, 5 crore rupees generate job opportunity for one person. In Nayachar, presently, it is proposed, 25,000 rupees will be invested. In that case, only 5,000 jobs can be created. These jobs mainly require well educated professionals. The question of priority to the sons of the soil does not arise at all. On the other hand, almost 2.5 lakh people are engaged in fishing and its allied jobs. In the Indian coastal belts, fishing industry, brings more than 6000 crore rupees of foreign exchange without any capital investment. Singularly, Kanthi coastal belt contributes nearly 300 crore rupees. The chemical hub in Nayachar will pollute and poison the water of the sea shore, the lives of the fishermen will be endangered and they will lose their living. The experts of the United Nations have already expressed concern over the environment and ecology in the Indian Ocean region.
? The demand for the petrochemical commodities is mostly artificial. The substitutes of such commodities may be produced from coal, plantation and agricultural commodities. For example, ethylene or bio-fuel may be produced from sugarcane or potato. The raw material for producing the substitutes is available in our country. Pollution level is also by far less. Those countries of the world that ignored the pollution factor in order to industrialize, their existence was at stake sooner or later. Brazil is trying to turn back from the ‘death valley’ with much effort.
? To conserve the along shore ecology and to ensure safety in the adjacent areas, the Government had issued a notice in 1991 namely, (CRZ) Coastal Regulation Zone and consequently the notice (CMZ) Coastal Management Zone. According to that notice, the area that gets flooded by the tidal waves and another 500 meters inland is included in CRZ1. No construction work is permitted in this ecologically sensitive area. However, now in Nayachar, apart from 2 to 2.5 sq km of vegetation forest area, the rest of Nayachar is being considered to be outside CRZ. The Chemical Hub will be made in the remaining
49 sq km of Nayachar. He State Government said in the beginning that there is habitation in Nayachar, hence there is no problem of rehabilitation. In 2007 that same Government said, there is human habitation in Nayachar, hence it is not within CEZ. What other than shameless debauchery is this? This Government is fearlessly ready to endanger the country’s future for instant political gain. The are spreading confusion by spinning false tale of work-possibility. The Salem group had been beside Suharto in Indonesia when thousands of communists were killed there. That same Salem group is now by the side of our Chief Minister.
? The experts fear that, world’s extractable petroleum will be exhausted within 30years. If it takes 10 years to make the chemical hub at Nayachar, then there is only 20 years left. The chemical hub will face closure after that. Endangering nature and existence, where will Mr Buddhodev and company go after that? Where will the capitalist friends go? May be they have left their options open. But what will happen to us? What will be the fate of our children? Where will they go? Our soil and water will turn blue with chemical poison. May be we will be left only to lament!
The man who had shown our previous generation the path to live with self esteem, who had led us to establish self-reliant industry, the chemical hub is named after that stalwart Acharya Profullo Chandra Roy. He is no more but his ideals are there to guide us. The ruling party learnt no lesson from Singur-Nandigram. But we have surely learnt a lesson. And the lesson is: the ruler may exercise extreme oppression but the combined strength of the struggling masses is much more than that. We shall not badge to the false propaganda. We shall not turn back at their threatening. We will not let our soil-water-air-sky be polluted. They will not be able to combat our resistance. WE ARE ANSWERABLE TO OUR PROGENIES. OUR CHILDREN SHOULD INHERIT A LIVABLE WORLD.
Published by Dr. Anup Bandyopadhyay for Teachers and Scientists against Maldevolopment (TASAM) from 8, Lenin Sarani, Kolkata – 700 013. Printed by Kalyan Biswas, Jadavpur.
Interested readers will get more information in the book called ‘Nayachar O Chemical Hub, Ekti Porjalochona’ which will be published soon.