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Published by: Anpu Ajith Thampi on Jul 02, 2013
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07/02/2013

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HLL’S FOLLY MERCURY SPILL IN KODAIKANAL

BY GROUP T1

blurred vision. Hindustan Lever Ltd residents led by with broken thermometer NGO including Greenpeace and ground glass 10 workers died at the factory while it was functional Symptoms reported by ex workers were fatigue. headaches. respiratory disorders.Introduction On March 2001. nausea. central nervous system problems 7. by Unilever’s Indian subsidiary. when they found a dumpsite with toxic mercury-laced waste from the company’s thermometer factory 32000 potentially affected people lived in Kodaikanal Disposal of mercury of an ongoing saga of Such an exposure marked the beginning Protests staged by contamination waste along dishonesty.4 ton of crushed mercury containing glass was spilled in a busy scrap yard located near a school . HLL caught redhanded by the residents of Kodaikanal.

. New York to Kodaikanal in 1983 The factory was acquired by Unilever after it bought Chesebrough Pond’s owner of HLL.History of HLL Factory The factory was originally located in New York but was shut down for environmental reasons US-based Chesebrough Pond’s relocated its aging mercury thermometer factory from Watertown. • Remaining waste was sold to recyclers unlawfully and in breach of company’s policies • Water from the plant was led to effluent treatment plant and sludge stored in the pit on site under cover • Factory buried glass scrap on the site after appropriate regulatory approvals. which is Unilever’s 51 percent owned Indian subsidiary imported all the glass and mercury for the thermometers from the US and exported all the finished thermometers to the US based Faichney Medical Co WASTE DISPOSAL PROCEDURES • Glass scrap was sent for recycling to glass merchants and glass containing mercury treated to recover the mercury.

800 workers were exposed to mercury • More than 20 workers between age group have died due to poisoning from factory • People in vicinity of factory have suffered from skin diseases. stomach pain and kidney problems • Poisonous vapour carrying mercury travelled across the town • Discontinued operational safety measure in factory . incessant headaches.Damage to Workers and Environment • It was reported that 600. premature graying.

R.HLL Response to complaints • After many denials & cover-ups the company agreed that it shipped out 5. John was appointed to defend the Factory administration • • Manufacturing operations were suspended on March 2001 & glass scrap yard was shifted to a more secure place An environmental audit was commissioned by HLL • It appointed Well-known URS Dames & Moore of Aus to conduct a detailed environmental audit • The result showed that 300 kg of mercury was disposed to the Pambar Sholas Forest and another 700 kg of waste through air .3 tonnes of mercury waste to scrap yard • HLL’s response to the complaints was transparent and the persons responsible for breach were indentified & penalized • A new manager.

demanding compensation from HLL for loss of their jobs and health hazards the suffered • The most laudable part of NGOs role is the novel and dramatic manner in which the kept they mercury waste spill issue alive throughout. . by using a variegated set of measures available to them. which tried to identify and contain contaminated soil • The NGOs were also behind the former workers approaching the supreme court of India in 2005.Role of NGO • The NGOs left no stones unturned to mobilize public opinion and to pressure TNPCB and the TN government to compel HLL to make amends for its acts of commission and omission in unlawful disposal of the hazardous toxic waste and in the exposure of workers to potentially dangerous work environment • The NGOs were also responsible to form the TN alliance against mercury (TAAM).

3 tonnes of glass wastes lying at the Munijikal scrap yard .Where does the truth lie ? High levels of mercury seen as far as 20 kms within the town . it accepts 5. in forests and lakes as per scientific studies HLL claims that the mercury levels were as per prescribed factory rules Studies indicating the impact on fauna and ecosystem Insufficient data for confirming mercury impact on the health of workers and community. HLL denial of death of 10 young men in the factory Post HLL’s denial to dumping mercury.

Ultimate Demand to Government • Government to initiate legal action against HLL for lying to statutory bodies and providing false information and for destroying evidence • Take serious action against the factory inspectors • Initiate long term studies to monitor the impact of mercury on the ecosystem • Compensate the families of dead workers • Permanently destroy the mercury found in HLL’s waste .

Why Ethics in Business? • To meet stakeholders expectations • To prevent harm to general public • To build trust trust with key stakeholder group • To protect their own employees • to create environment in which workers can act in ways consistant with their values Source: Business Ethics and Corporate Goverance. Fernando .

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