Greenpeace Launches River-keeper in Eloor

Press release - November 21, 2002
COCHIN, India — The mayor of Cochin Mr. C.M. Dinesh Mani flagged off the river-keeper in Eloor today at 10 a.m. The river-keeper, a Greenpeace active volunteer V.J.Jose, will use a small motorised boat to systematically patrol and monitor the waterways of Eloor. He would keep an eye out for illegal discharges from the Industries, collect water samples for analysis as well as document incidents of pollution.

Speaking on the occasion, the mayor Mr. Dinesh Mani said, "I am very happy that such a proactive step has been taken. This activity initiated by Greenpeace would empower the community to fight for their right to a clean environment. I was myself an employee in this industrial estate and I know the problems that the community faces." After being flagged off by the Mayor, the river-keeper took his boat on a ceremonial trip down the river to the location where the river had industries on either side, the very location which he would keep a careful watch on. He was accompanied on this trip by Mr. Manu Gopalan, Toxics campaigner of Greenpeace.

Speaking in solidarity, Purushan Eloor of the Periyar Malineekarana Virudha Samiti, said: "In these testing times when the government of Kerala plans to sell the river Periyar to private companies, opportunities like this 'Periayar Riverkeeper' idea which helps people save their river from further poisoning must be celebrated"

"We have been part of the people's struggle in Eloor to secure a toxic-free future for themselves and their children for over three years now", said Mr. Manu Gopalan. "The community has been badly let-down by the government especially the Pollution control Board. They do not have any information about the Industries, what hazardous chemicals are being used. Even a basic emergency response system is not in place. This river-keeper is about empowering the community to demand their rights."

In 1999, Greenpeace did a sampling study of the Eloor Industrial Area and found such high levels of toxic pollution that it declared Eloor a "Global Toxic Hot spot". The study found 111 different chemicals in Kozhikandan Thodu, a creek into which Hindustan Insecticides, Merchem Industry and others discharge their effluents. Of these 111, there were as many as 39 Persistant Organic Pollutants (POPs). POPs persist in the environment, accumulate in the bodies of animals and humans and cause severe health impacts ranging from hormonal disruptions, loss of fertility and cancers.

"The consistant release of toxic chemicals by corporations in callous disregard for the community and flagrant violation of the law, makes Eloor a Bhopal in slow motion.", said Sanjiv Gopal of Greenpeace. "There are a thousand Bhopals across the country, where corporations are compromising on environmental and safety standards thus exposing both their workers and the community around to toxics. It is to bring public attention to this issue that we have undertaken the Thousand Bhopals Jatha."

The Greenpeace activists are here as part of the "Thousand Bhopals Jatha" which will travels thriough 25 different hot-spots of the country with the message of "No More Bhopals" and the mission to "empower people to eliminate corporate crime". The Jatha which has reached here after covering 5 hot-spots in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, will be joined by three survivors from Eloor on its journey to Bhopal.

Mr. V.J.Jose has been a long time local environmental activist has been an active volunteer with Greenpeace over the last year. "I have been documenting environmental crimes here for many years now. With the boat, I feel confident that I can do a systematic job of monitoring the river and using the information to empower and mobilise my community and put more pressure on the government authorities to act. Polluters beware!", says Jose confidently.

The Thousand Bhopals Jatha, will be joined by the Greenpeace ship MV Artic Sunrise, which docks in Cochin on the 23rd. There are a series of activities that are planned by Greenpeace till the 28th. Over the next 4 days, the Jatha will stage street plays, take out rallies, meet officials and focus attention on the specific situation of Eloor as well as the larger issues surrounding toxic pollution in India.

For more information:Prabal Kumar Das, Media officer - 9818108802

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For more information:Manu Gopalan, Toxics Campaigner - 9811608036

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