The Madras High Court on Tuesday refused to discredit or discard the findings of a study conducted by the Department of Community Medicine of Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital in 2008 regarding the health status of people residing within a radius of five kilometres from Sterlite copper smelting plant in Thoothukudi.
Justices T.S. Sivagnanam and V. Bhavani Subbaroyan pointed out that the covered a population of 80,725 people and its report indicated that prevalence of brain tumour among male population was 1000 times the national incidence rate. It also found that people suffering from respiratory diseases were significantly more.
Skin lesions were high, women in the area suffered from menstrual disorders and disorders of joint and musculoskeletal system were also high in the villages around the industry. Iron content in the groundwater at Kumareddiapuram and Therkuveerapandipuram was found to be 17 to 20 times higher than permissible levels for drinking.
“To provide a clean and health living atmosphere is the duty of the State, doctrine of public trust casts a duty on the State. Nevertheless, if operation of the industry causes certain health concerns, it is a matter which should have been taken with utmost seriousness by the appropriate authorities.
“Unfortunately, the appropriate authorities of the State appear to have not given a serious thought to the health aspect of the general public living in and around the industry. No material was placed before us to show as to how the health monitoring reports submitted once in six months are processed,” the Bench lamented.
It added that the government had also not submitted any data to controvert the claim of the petitioner company that no health issues were faced by its employees due to its operations. “Therefore, we conclude that the health concern of the people in and around the petitioner’s factory has not been properly monitored,” the court said.