Between Life and Livelihood
The Travancore Titanium Products Ltd. (TTP) is the leading manufacturer of anatase grade titanium dioxide pigment in the country. TTP is located near Thiruvananthapuram. Till recently, the Travancore Titanium Products enjoyed a sheer monopoly being the monopoly producer of the product anatase grade titanium dioxide.. But with the opening up of Indian Economy and with economic liberalization the monopoly enjoyed by TTP is over. The unsold product worth Rs. 26 crore has already being piled up and finding it increasingly difficult to sell it off.
This is a question of survival for TTP. But TTP had already done tremendous damage to the coastal people especially fishing community in and around that area as continuous discharge of untreated trade effluent from titanium into the sea has made that area as a highly polluted zone.
Here the color of coconut leaves have turned yellow. There is no green, but leaves of the plants around that area are yellow. If one put a piece of white cloth in to the water then its color will change. Staying for 10 minutes in that area makes one uneasy. It has got its impact on living creatures in the sea 2002, the closure of the plant in the wake of its failure to install modern effluent treatment facilities and for discharging effluents to sea. Earlier the company had agreed to install full-fledged effluent treatment plant comprising copperas recovery plant, acid recovery plant and neutralization plant by September 1, 2000 and commission them within a year. Fishing community angry over the developments turned violent and blocked the effluent pipe from the plant.
But nothing happened .This made the locals angry turning to protests and strikes . Then comes the formation of Coastal Uplift Association and they were on strike demanding setting up of an effluent treatment plant .But the leaders were not for closure of the plant. They were very clear that, "many among us are employed in TTP so closing down of TTP is not the solution but setting up of the effluent treatment plant is what we need". They declared a hunger strike and their demand mainly consisted of setting up of effluent treatment plant. Forum rightly kept away unusual demands that could not be justifiable. Those connected with the association always insisted on the need for the continued functioning of the factory. Finally the government agreed to their demand at a cost of Rs.110 crore.
But today many are raising questions as to whether it is feasible to go on with the proposed Rs.110 crore project for setting up an effluent plant as it may lead to the collapse of the company which is already in very bad shape. According to them company is in a serious financial crisis owing to the heavy taxation combined with large scale import of titanium dioxide product from China. Following the cut in the import duty on titanium dioxide, China has been exporting large quantities of the product to India and selling it at a much lower price than that of TTP Ltd . While the Chinese product is available at Rs. 62,000 per tonne in the Mumbai market , TTPs product is being sold at Rs.87,000 per tonne.
But the arguments against setting up of the effluent plant are absurd. The main objection to set up the plant in fact has come from Shri .KP Shankardas, President of the TTP Employees Federation , who says that 110 crore plant would lead to the collapse of the company. But the thing is that the pollution caused by the TTP Ltd is a threat to the very livelihood of many thousands in the coastal belt. Environmental aspects should be taken very seriously. By the collapse of TTP Ltd few hundreds or at the most 1000 families may get affected. TTP Ltd has already done a lot of damage to the ecology and the effluents that flowing is a threat to lively hood of many thousands of fishermen families.
We must choose between life and death, whether few hundreds should get benefit out of very costly , in terms environmental hazards, ecological problems. The livelihood of many thousands families that survive only by fishing is already under threat. It calls for a cost benefit analysis of the TTP Ltd and also the proposal for setting up effluent treatment plant.
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Dr. P Koshy
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