Honourable Minister Anil Dave: We learnt with shock that Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has endorsed Hindustan Unilever's proposal to clean the mercury contamination in Kodaikanal to a substandard level of 20 mg/kg. That means that even after clean-up, 20 mg of mercury will be allowed to remain in each kg of soil. This, they claim, is safe for residential users. We are shocked for two reasons: First, the site is located in an ecologically sensitive area and clean-up should ideally be conducted so that any remaining mercury does not exceed that naturally-occurring levels. Second, in the United Kingdom where Unilever is headquartered, soils containing 20 mg/kg would be considered too dangerous for residential users. The soil guideline value for residential areas in the UK is 1 mg/kg – 20 times more stringent than what Unilever has proposed for India. This is plainly a double standard and NOT a safe standard. Further, the CPCB's endorsement is admittedly unscientific and fails to follow any established procedure. In response to an RTI, CPCB has admitted that the “CPCB has not conducted any meeting with stakeholders for fixing of standards for cleanup of contaminated sites at Kodaikanal. Further, CPCB has not sought participation of scientist, scientific bodies and members of TNPCB (Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board) to advice on clean-up process.” In January 2016, the CPCB brought out clear Guidelines on fixing liabilities for remediation of mercury-contaminated sites. These guidelines, if implemented, would help us enforce a world-class clean-up. We urge you to condemn Unilever's double standards and extend your cooperation to the Government of Tamil Nadu and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board so that the Kodaikanal site is cleaned up to the highest standards.
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Minister Divya Narayanan