Troubled island

  • 14/10/2003

Troubled island Eloor, a river island in Kerala, is in the midst of a health crisis, thanks to 247 chemical factories operating within the vicinity of residential areas. Residents of the island are more susceptible to diseases than those living in other places of the Kochi district, indicates a study. The health assessment was done by the Netherlands-based Greenpeace International, with support from the Occupational Health and Safety Centre, Mumbai; the Community Health Cell, Bangalore; National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Bangalore; and St Johns Medical College, Bangalore. Close to 9,122 residents of Eloor and the nearby Pindimana village (a less polluted area) were studied.

In comparison to a person from Pindimana, a resident of Eloor has 2.85 times more risk of suffering from cancer, three times higher possibility of contracting mental and behavioural problems, and 3.8 more chances of having children with birth defects. Death incidences due to bronchitis and asthma in Eloor are 2.2 to 3.4 times more.

The island is Kerala's largest industrial belt. The factories mainly deal with petrochemicals and pesticides. They spew out toxic chemicals into the air, and recklessly dispose of their effluents. Eloor has close to 40,000 residents, out of which 10,000 are factory workers. Purushan Eloor, an activist from the area, reveals that during the past two years, 52 workers of the Fertilisers and Chemicals Travancore factory have died. Well water of the wards near to the factory smells of DDT; 18 varieties of fish and butterflies have become extinct from the areas. Moreover, information regarding pollutants is not disseminated to the residents, as stipulated by the Factories Act and the Environment Protection Act; and the doctors are not well oriented to treat and diagnose the numerous ailments.

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