ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Bankim Mukherjee

also cause long lasting environmental degradation in the neighbourhood. Northern Kerala is an acutely power- starved area where voltage drop as well as frequent power cuts are the order of the day. People are prepared to sacrifice anything for the sake of a steady supply of electricity. Feeling the pulse of the people, SKPL has come forward with a statement that they will generate 100 MW of power captively, out of which 80 MW will be utilised by the factory and 20 MW will be fed into the grid. In a state where unemployment has reached explosive proportions, any opportunity to mitigate it will be accepted wholeheartedly. Knowing this well, grossly exaggerated estimates of employment potential of the proposed plant are being flaunted by Vinod Thaparia, the director of the company. The public relations exercise he has undertaken is unique for its attempt to foreclose any anticipated opposition, by certain simplistic statements. For example, he has gone on record (see Chemical Weekly, February 11, 1997) saying that the petrochemical factory is a 'non-toxic' and 'zero-pollution' venture. Imagine the nerve of portraying an industry which is among the most hazardous 20 industries as such a harmless venture, "to allay the fears of the public", even before the deal has been finalised. Much more by way of statements such as these can be expected from companies of this type with huge allocation of funds for public relation and propaganda Now that an MoU has been signed and a 'green signal' has been received from the central government by way of a letter of intent, it calls for immediate public attention. One has to weigh the advantages on the economic and employment sectors against probable destruction of the environment through pollution and excessive water consumption. Pollution, of course, can be prevented to a limited extent; but only at the cost of profits, as funds will have to be diverted to state-of-the-art technologies to fight pollution. Can we reasonably expect a private company with a considerable equity participation by foreign firms to invest heavily on pollution control and monitoring, in a country where the rules are rather for the statute books than for implementation? TNCs coming to India with hazardous processes do not have a track record of conforming to stringent environmental standards in their host countries (the case of Bhopal is too vivid to forget).

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