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Online Petition Against the Petrochemical Hub near the Sunderban Biosphere Reserve

by Santanu Chacraverti, 13 March 2009

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Petition online

We say "NO" to a Petrochemical Hub in the Ganga Delta

To: The Prime Minister, The Republic of India


On 23rd of February 2009 the Union Cabinet has given its blessings to the setting up of a PCPIR (more popularly known as a petrochemical hub) in the Haldia region of West Bengal, with some 70% of the area earmarked for new processing industries to come from the estuarine island of Nayachar.

By giving its assent to the proposal of setting up a petrochemical industrial cluster in Haldia and Nayachar the Government of India has once again actively allied itself with the global league waging war against the earth, the biosphere and the lives and livelihoods dependent thereupon. We draw your attention to the following:

  • Nayachar is an estuarine island close to Bay of Bengal. The island is also known as Meendwip (Fish Island) for the waters around the island teem with fish that provide sustenance to thousands of neighbouring fishers. The island is situated less than 10 km away from the Sunderban Biosphere Reserve.
  • It is almost superfluous to mention that the littoral tract of the Sunderbans is one of the richest in the world in terms of biodiversity and ecological wealth. And the Hugli-Matla estuarine-coastal region, which is home to the Indian Sunderban, is widely recognised as one of the most biodiversity rich areas of the world.
  • And it is this region that is being selected for setting up a Hub for Petrochemical industries, the world leaders in pollution and horrible industrial accidents. Numerous products and by-products of this industry and their chemical transformations have been identified as Persistent Organic Pollutants. These and other chemicals associated with Petrochemical production have been scientifically identified as carcinogens, mutagens and /or endocrine disruptors. It may be mentioned in this connection that, in view of multi-dimensional risks associated with chemical/petrochemical industries, Europe and USA have imposed rigid environmental norms that have encouraged the migration of such industries to Southern nations with lax environmental governance.
  • Setting up of a mega-Petrochemical cluster in the name of industrial development in the region will threaten the lives and livelihood of some two hundred and seventy thousand people dependent on coastal fishing, in addition to a huge fishing population in the lower reaches of the Hugli, Matla, Vidyadhari, Hariabhanga and other rivers.
  • The sheer grotesqueness of the Union Cabinet’s decision is evinced by the fact that in the very week the Cabinet gave assent to PCPIRs, the Ministry of Environment and Forests issued a Notification declaring the creation of the National Ganga River Basin Authority, and declaring the Ganga a ‘National River’. The chief concerns of this notification include:
  • Ensuring “effective abatement of pollution and conservation of the river Ganga” and maintaining “minimum ecological flows in the river Ganga with the aim of ensuring water quality and environmentally sustainable development”.
  • You, Mr. Prime Minister, have been declared the ex officio Chairperson of the National Ganga River Basin Authority and you are also the Head of the Council of Ministers and leader of the Union Cabinet, the same Cabinet which has given clearance to a project proposal that, by its very nature, will destroy the “ecological flow” in the our National River and jeopardise its “water quality and environmentally sustainable development”. How do you reconcile your two positions, or do you consider that such bizarre contradictions do not matter?
  • Contamination of waters around Nayachar will not remain a local phenomenon. The tidal propagation in the Hugli reaches up to Nabadwip, and it is the Hugli water that constitutes the main source of Municipal water supply in the riparian municipalities of South Bengal. Contamination of water, decline in and contamination of fish stocks will jeopardise the health and nutrition security of millions.
  • Selecting the Ganga-Hugli estuary as a site for setting up of a large-scale petrochemical complex is outrageous. Equally outrageous is the fact of governmental defiance of the laws of the land, namely of the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 1991. In the case of Nayachar the CRZ has been violated at two levels. First, by reclassifying large parts of Nayachar as CRZ III; for even a superficial attention to the geographical-ecological characteristics of Nayachar and to the text of the CRZ notification would show that the entire coastal area of the island should be classified under CRZ I (i). What is shocking is the absolute bad faith that went into this reclassification, whose true object seems not to have been conservation and protection of the environment but clearing the way for ecocidal industrialisation. Showing scant respect to the letter and spirit of the CRZ Notification, only portions of the coastal areas of the island were kept under CRZ I (i) and substantial sections were brought under CRZ III.
  • But there is also a second phase of violation. Even this new coastal zonation of Nayachar stands defied by the West Bengal PCPIR project proposal. In the latter only the mangrove areas have been identified as CRZ I (i) with no mention of mudflats, intertidal vegetation and buffer zone, although the new approved Coastal Zone Management Plan for Nayachar designates the said areas as CRZ I (i), that is regions that are generally to be treated as extremely vulnerable and sensitive.
  • Both the CRZ reclassification of Nayachar and the West Bengal government’s defiance of even the new zonation stand as testimony to how the government blatantly violates the laws of the land.
  • Employment generation is touted as one of the benefits of setting up of a Petrochemical Hub. Surely, as an economist, you are aware that the heavily capital intensive petrochemical industries have drastically poor employment generating potential. And further, if the government is unable to visualise means of generating employment without destroying environment and natural resources, it has no right to rule.

We demand that, in view of the facts and arguments stated above, the Union Cabinet withdraw is assent to the PCPIR in West Bengal. If the Government decides to go ahead with its plan to devastate environment, ecology and lives of millions in our state, it shall find the citizen ready with all the weapons of democratic resistance.


The Undersigned

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