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21 Sep 2019, Edition - 1530, Saturday

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Coimbatore

Severe pollution to chronic lung diseases, ACC Cements has given it all

Vignesh Vijayakumar and Syed Ibrahim

Rangasami (70) needs injections as he has turned to be a chronic asthma patient. He took voluntary retirement from the ACC factory in Madukkarai in 1994 which, he says, made him a chronic patient. Rangasami is just one among the many in the factory vicinity who are ill.

He was a temporary staff at the factory. “Even though they give you a mask, you can’t wear it for more than 15 minutes because of suffocation,” he told The Covai Post. He joined the company when he was 26 and all through the years, what he inhaled was smoke and dust from the factory.

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Recently a petition was submitted to the District Collector TN Hariharan on the severe air pollution the factory was causing. Covai Post is in possession of the videos that were handed over.

People around the factory admit that life has turned miserable because of the pollution. The air around is polluted and cement dust creates a screen, they said. There is not a single house in the vicinity that does not have at least one chronic asthma patient. Wheezing is a problem they have come to live with. Thyroid cases are more prevalent among women.

There is a burning sensation in the eyes if one spends a mere 10 minutes around the factory. AIADMK branch Secretary B Sopan told The Covai Post: “We have been complaining to officials for quite a long time and have literally got fed up of petitioning the officials. No action has been taken and the factory authorities are complacent and indifferent. He added that expired products are used to power the factory thermal plant which releases toxic gases.

Around three km of the factory, tiled houses have a cement `coating’. “The dust the factory spills out settles on our rooftops,” says Hamsaveni G, pointing to the roof of her grocery. Even the glass jars and tables in the shop are covered with cement dust, says Hamsaveni who has been under treatment for thyroid for the last two years.

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Public protest helped in preventing the release of waste water from the factory some eight years ago.

Dr M Natarajan, who runs a the Nataraj Hospital in that area said the air and soil is polluted and it is little wonder then that people here are sick.

“One can’t stand outside wearing a white shirt here during rains. In 10 minutes, the rain brings down the dust in the atmosphere and the shirt turns black,” he said. Asthma and lung diseases are common among people here, he says. Besides, a burning sensation in the eyes is quite common.

P Mailchami, a farmer whose tiled roof is cement covered, says that the dust has settled in the land for years and one has to dig more than one foot deep to go beyond the cement dust.

A Shanmugam, the legislator from the constituency, when contacted, told The Covai Post: “There is no such issue now and factory is not releasing any polluted gas out now.” When told that his voters think otherwise, he stuck to his stand.

An official of the ACC Cements said ” We are running the plant according to current norms of the Pollution Control Board of Tamil Nadu”.

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