Letter From The Women Of Kathikudam
By The Women of Kathikudam
22 July, 2013
The Women of Kathikudam
We, the women and children from this small village in Kadukutty Panchayat in Chalakkudy of Thrissur district in Kerala are writing to you in distress and desperation. We have a fable that we want to share with you which if we do not do will never reach you. Unlike the Fable for Tomorrow, the opening chapter of the poignant book on toxins in the environment Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, ours is Fable for today….
Our sylvan village on the banks of the tributaries of Chalakudy river was prime agricultural area with arecanut and coconut, clove and paddy fields. Being on the banks of the river, supply of pure life giving waters was perennial and constant. This was the situation in which we were not so long back that is 30 years ago. When in the early 1970s the Government and the Kerala Industrial Development Corporation came in with the proposal to start a factory with a fancy name Nita Gelatin Factory with Japanese collaboration, there were mixed feelings in our minds. Many welcomed it as it would assure employment for our youth. Some were skeptical and watchful and others just ignored. But little did any one of us know what we were in store for. The three products that the Company started producing- Gelatin, Ossein and Dicalcium phosphate have lethal effluents with deleterious impacts on the air, water and soil along with human health. A casual visit to our village is enough to prove this. Along with this is the massive withdrawal and pumping of more than 62,90,200 litres* of water daily from the Chalakudy river! No, we were not prepared or ready for this. Very soon we found that we were being consumed by a dark and dangerous monster which would affect all that made our life and land special- the purity of the environment and our bodies
Thus the real fable began. Our children were constantly ill with lung and skin infections. The women started feeling scared as many babies were born with abnormalities- both physical and mental. Our men and boys started losing their energetic healthy state. Along with this was the ill-health of the land. The water we use was contaminated. Our soil and paddy fields in which sludge from the factory was dumped lost its fertile nature. The farmers started losing vital crops like cucumbers. The death and stink of fishes and other water organisms became a common sight.
We came across studies that proved that we were surrounded with a lethal cocktail of hydrochloric acid, grease, oil, bone marrow, meat residues from animal bones and chloride to name a few.All of this singly or in combination with other elements in the air,water and soil into which they were thrown into would emerge as organo chlorides and other toxic fatal contaminants. And this was the village we were living in! Along with this came the additional concern about the water supply to 5 panchayats and 1 municipality from a pump house with the same water not to speak of a more recent Drinking water scheme to 3 more Panchayats. We realized that more and more people were being added to the beneficiary list of free contaminant dispersal by the Government.
All the beautiful things in Nature- the wind patterns, the flow of the river and its tributaries, the open paddy fields and the fertile alluvial deposits turned against us and all life forms in accumulating and magnifying the toxins that this monster gave out so generously.
Since the early 2000s we, the people of this village started organizing against the Company and the Pollution Control Board and all of the State machinery which was abetting the crime of giving permission and extending permits for the factory to function here. In spite of studies and data that proved that the chloride levels in the water and effluents was several times more than permissible in our region ( 4450 mg/litre Chloride as against the permissible 250mg/litre) the Company continued. Inspite of the water quality tests which showed that the water from our wells and water bodies is not fit for human consumption, there was no ban on the discharge or mandate for treating the discharge of effluents. In spite of regular and massive death and surfacing of fishes in the river and paddy fields along with other smaller organisms there was no attempt to block the pipelines that were slowly and steadily reaching the contaminated water to the river, the paddy fields or the water bodies.
We have gone through strikes, sit-ins, dharnas, meetings with political parties, leaders in power and otherwise. Our one and only demand is to shut down the factory which has not given any employment or brought progress and prosperity to our village. On the contrary it has made us ill and also contaminated our surroundings beyond repair. With all this in view, we announced that our month long strike with fasts and dharnas would take a new turn in which we would be forced to remove the pipe line which is a symbol of all the bad effects of the monster on 21 st July 2013.More than 6000 people gathered in a peaceful manner just yesterday, but all the roads and pathways were blocked by Police including a Platoon from the Rapid Action Force. By mid afternoon, the women and children were arrested and removed. Then started the carnage on our men and youth . Many, more than 100 lie injured in hospitals as this is being written. Some are in Intensive Care Units, especially our leaders. Others are hiding. There was massive intrusion into the houses where women were subjected to verbal abuses from the Police, windows and doors broken.Many bikes and vehicles have been damaged in the scuffle that followed .
We ask this of all those concerned- is there no other way in which the just demands of a community along with their right to establish a safe and secure life? Is it unlawful in a democratic system to raise questions against a development program that strikes at the base of life and livelihood using the most illegal and undemocratic means possible? What did we do to warrant such a violent and aggressive reaction and response from the Government? Do we not deserve a space for a decent dialogue that will answer our concerns and anxieties about our own life?
This we ask as we stop the fable for today
Please stand by us
The Women of KATHIKUDAM 22.07.2013
Prepared by Anitha.S ( after talking with the shocked and angry women friends in Kathikudam ) firstname.lastname@example.org
* The company claims that the consumption of water has been brought down to below 30,00,000 by October, 2012 and currently consumes less than 28,00,000 litres of water.
Here is a detailed report on the pollution caused by the company
Here are some images of police carnage in Kathikudam on 21 July
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