Kerala, which tops the health index in the country, is alleged to have ignored the health issues of the people of coastal Azhikkal in Kannur, Kerala, which they claim to have been caused because of illegal ship breaking. The coastal belt of Azikkal that has seen an emergence of cancer, renal failures, skin and eye diseases, is said to have gone out of the surveillance of the health department with the state government refusing to hold a comprehensive health survey of the region.
Despite the villagers demanding a health survey of the region to evaluate the actual cause of all ailments, the government is alleged to have not yet taken their demands in its true spirit. They say that the Kerala government that boasts of having the best health care system in the world has never taken the pains to understand the real health issues of the region, which they allege to have been caused because of ship breaking at Steel Industries Kerala Limited (SILK).
It was just one survey of the Ezhimala Naval Academy that pointed out widespread health issues in the region surrounding the ship breaking unit of state owned SILK. “It was after this survey that the people became aware of the dangers of ship breaking at SILK. We have now decided to intensify our agitation against the illegal ship breaking at the state owned company. We also demand a proper health survey in the region,” Kappalpoli Virudha Samithi (committee against ship breaking) leader M K Manoharan said.
“A survey conducted by us has found out that a large number of people in the region have died either of cancer or renal failure. Apart from this, we have also come across people suffering from skin and eye diseases. The region has also seen many deaths of children and young people, which adds to the worse situation in the region. Despite all this, the pity is that the Government is not for holding any health study here,” he told kadapuram.com
Stating that the people in the region live with fear, Manoharan said that they have given several representations to the district authorities for looking into the issues. “We had given a representation to the district collector and the panchayat authorities regarding the urgent need for holding such a study,” he said.
With the government’s negation of the demand for a comprehensive health study, the Kappalpoli Virudha Samithi is for strengthening their agitation. “We are going to fight this in all ways, both with agitations and challenging it legally,” he said.
Pointing out that they were living with fear, a villager says that the whole region has been polluted. “It is all black smoke in the area and foul smell. We cannot open the windows not the doors. Even we fear of stepping out of the house,” he said. Another villager said that she was having eye sight problems and was having continuous cough. She noted that the children and the older people were having frequent fevers and also itching. She also said that several of the neighbours have said of the same conditions.
Apart from the health issues, the region has also been witnessing environmental issue. “The water bodies and the wells have been polluted. Even the sea and the coast has been contaminated,” he said.
Manoharan alleged that SILK was indulged in ship breaking flouting all national and international laws. SILK started as a ship building unit and they have no license for ship breaking. The paradox is that a State owned company itself is violating all environment and safety norms.
Moreover, the oil and asbestos that comes with ship breaking has killed many of the fish species and other marine stock.