Unilever ready to clean up premises

September 01 [Tue], 2015, 12:30
Global consumer goods giant Unilever has said it is now taking action to clean up the soil around its closed thermometer manufacturing unit in Kodaikanal but wants the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to provide consent.

In essence, the company seems to have shifted the sports medical tape onus on to the TNPCB by reaffirming its willingness to implement the remediation process in Kodaikanal factory area.

The statement came through a series of tweets and a statement on Wednesday, days after the release of rap song explaining the 14-year-long issue that went viral on social media. The music video has received wide attention from international media, including those in Europe and United States.

In its statement, the company reiterated its stand that its former employees did not suffer any ill-effects on their health due to the 3m medical tape nature of the work at the thermometer factory. This had been confirmed by a number of expert studies, including one convened by the Madras High Court. An expert study has also concluded that there was no adverse impact on the environment in Kodaikanal.

“Pre-remediation work was started in 2009 but the criteria set by the TNPCB were contested by NGOs, which has delayed these efforts. We are awaiting final consent before re-starting this work,” the statement said. TNPCB officials could not be contacted for comments.

Meanwhile, activists involved in the Kodaikanal campaign medical tape types said the company’s statement “reeks of insincerity and is factually wrong on many counts.”

Environment activist Nityanand Jayaraman said the statement comfortably omitted mentioning a Government of India report that was submitted to the Madras High Court. This report was produced by a team constituted by the Ministry of Labour and Employment and included occupational health and safety experts.

The report was based on expert investigation of the factory premises, and clinical diagnosis of exposed workers and their family members and was unlike previous reports based on secondary information.

“The report had claimed medical examination of the workers conducted during the field visit in October 2011 by the committee of medical personnel has revealed typical symptoms of mercury poisoning as evidenced by the witnesses presented during investigation,” he said, adding that on the environment front, medical tape supplies even by Unilever consultant’s conservative estimates, at least 1.2 tonnes of mercury was discharged into the Pambar Shola watershed as airborne emissions.
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