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Kerala HC speaks tough as Kochi remains covered with smog

Kochi, March 8 (IANS) The Kerala High Court on Wednesday continued to express its deep displeasure about the authorities’ inability to deal with the toxic haze and smog in the state’s commercial capital Kochi due to a fire at a garbage dump and waste plant there.

The situation has been going on for a week and losing its patience, the high court had taken suo motu cognisance of this issue and has been slamming the state government, the Kochi Corporation and the Kerala State Pollution Control Board.

The fire, which began last week at the waste plant at Brahmapuram, had led to a dip in air quality in the city.

Due to the huge smoke cover over several areas, the data on the Kerala Pollution Control Board website shows PM2.5 and PM10 particulate levels in the air in Kochi way above the prescribed standards.

Beleaguered residents are asked to wear N-95 masks if they venture out and schools have asked children in the lower classes to remain home.

The court, at the previous hearing, said that the state claims to be a No 1 in literacy and the court would like to know whether it would like to be No 1 in protecting the environment and implementing solid waste management handling rules.

“This cannot be accomplished by a parcel of accomplishment either in a Corporation or a Municipality or a Grama Panchayat,” it stated.

On Wednesday, the court gave all the authorities a dressing down again and asked the Kerala State Electricity Board to provide electric connections, before 8 p.m., at Brahamapuram garbage site so work of the fire fighters can continue.

It also asked the Secreytary, Local Self Government to ensure that the outcome of the meeting chaired by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Wednesday should be placed before the court on Friday and it need not be a bulky report, but just bullet points.

It also asked the Kochi Corporation secretary to ensure that the waste that is collected should be segregated at the source itself.

Meanwhile, the former Mayor of the Kochi Corporation, Tony Chemmani alleged that the work for the treatment of the waste was given to a company where the top official is the son-in-law of a top CPI-M leader in violation of all tender norms, and demanded a probe.

Veteran CPI-M leader and former Left Democratic Front convenor Vaikom Viswan, whose son-in-law’s firm got the work, said he has no clue of any such thing and welcomed a probe.

State CPI-M secretary M.V. Govindan, who was the Local Self Government Minister till he took over as the party post, said when he handled the portfolio, he too expressed his concern about the way this particular company was functioning and when authorities alerted them, things did improve.

Even as the court is tackling this with utmost urgency, residents of Kochi’s Brahamapuram are upset and Class 10 student Nayana, whose examinations are starting on Thursday, said things are really tough for her.

“The smell is unbearable and my body itches and am unable to concentrate on my studies,” said Nayana, while her mother said the authorities are unable to handle things and even the Chief Minister is holding a meeting only later in Wednesday.



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