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18 Jul 2019, Edition - 1465, Thursday

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Coimbatore

Velliangadu villagers protest forces panchayat to seek cancellation of factory building approval

Susmitha Suresh

Coimbatore: People’s will prevailed when the Velliangadu panchayat assistant director recommended cancellation of the building approval for ARMK Aroma Farms. The recommendation was made to the Karamadai Block Development Officer (BDO) after villagers petitioned against the ongoing construction.

It was a struggle for clean water that finally led to panchayat AD Padmavati making the recommendation to BDO A Ravichandran.

On June 8, the villagers of Velliangadu had marched to the Collector’s office to submit a petition against the coming up of a factory ARMK Aroma Farms. The AD, after a visit to the factory, found out that the building was over 4,200 sq ft when the approval was for 1,890 sq ft.

“They’re building a factory that is 3 to 3.5 km from the Pillur dam and very close to the Western Ghats. There are two purification plants close by,” said Thennarasu M, one of the protesters.

Factory owner Muthu Swamy said he was not going to use or produce chemical waste as accused by villagers. “We only take extracts from mullai poo and curry leaves,” said the one-time farmer.

“It’s only a small shed and a few machines. We haven’t yet acquired permits from the Pollution Control Board or anywhere. We don’t even have electricity. Even before that the villagers came with the protest,” he said.

Asked if he knew why they were protesting, he said “I don’t really know. It might be the influence of other factories in the area. There are nine similar factories nearby,” he claimed.

The factory had a website up already, which was one of the major reasons why the villagers were concerned. It showed that the scent factory was planning to take extracts from various flowers.”It’s a dummy website the kids put up. It’s not the real one,” said Muthu Swamy.

“The factory is built on unapproved site,” says Samraj Subbayan, a private employee from Velliangadu. “The site used to be an agricultural area. Now they’ve suddenly built the factory there.” Muthu Swamy used to do farming on the 40 acres earlier.

“The officials at the Pollution Control Board gave the sanction for it as well,” adds Samraj. In a recent development, the villagers told The Covai Post that TNPCB officials had claimed that they did not give permission to ARMK farms. However the factory had submitted documents from the TNPCB to the BDO for building approval a year ago.

M Su Mani from the Save Bhavani Trust said that smoke from boilers used in such plants can pollute the air and waste materials the water. “The ARMK Aroma Farm had told the local people that they were building a warehouse for a poultry farm,” he said.

Thennarasu confirmed the claim. “Nearly 99 per cent of the people in the villages didn’t know what was coming up here,” he said. They thought it was a warehouse to keep agricultural produce and products. Then they started to bring in equipment, and it came to their notice.

He added that the area came under the red-marked areas of the TNPCB. These areas are near the Cauvery or its trajectories and should not have any factories there. He added that there was a rule by the Central Government, where special permission was needed to build near the Western Ghats.

The villagers had also approached the Rajyasabha MP, A K Selvaraj. “If the people are against it, we are certainly against it as well,” he said adding, that he had already given a letter to the Collector in this regard.

The villagers had also approached O K Chinnaraj, MLA, who said he was not aware of the situation till the villagers approached him. He could not be reached for comment.

“We petitioned the Collectorate, forestry and pollution board with around 1,000 signatures collected within a week” said Thennarasu. The villagers then approached the BDO who said approval had been given a year back and the cancellation of the permit could only be done by the AD of Panchayat.

The villagers approached the AD, who then came for an unannounced visit at the factory. The BDO and the AD of Panchayat were not available for comment.

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