ercury Worker's Welfare Association, told IANS.
Greenpeace activist Navroz Mody said: "The Indian government must prosecute HLL for the murder of at least 17 workers."
In 1983, Hindustan Lever's predecessor Pond's India Ltd relocated a 30-year thermometer factory from Watertown, New York, to India. The factory had reportedly shut down in New York for environmental reasons.
Once in India, the factory was allowed to import mercury, glass and other raw material, export all thermometers and leave behind the mercury wastes in India, association staffers alleged.
The owner was allowed to convert agricultural land for industrial use and set up shop on a bluff whose slopes drained into the perennial Pamban River through the Shola forests of the Palani-Nilgiri ranges, they added.
According to the former employees, in 16 years of operation, HLL and its previous owner Pond's India Ltd exposed between 600 and 800 workers to mercury in the workplace. Mercury spills were common.
Reacting to complaints from workers and the public, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board ordered the factory to shut down and clean up. At least 300 tonnes of mercury waste has been sent back to the US, Hindustan Lever says.
The Supreme Court Monitoring Committee has also acknowledged mercury related health damage of workers and community residents: "The situation at HLL is extremely serious in nature. There can be no two opinions that remediation and rehabilitation of the natural environment and of workers and others are both urgently required..."
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