The Loss of Ecology Authority, set up by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), has asked the tanneries of Vellore district, Tamil Nadu, to pay a compensation of Rs26.82 crore (1 crore = 10 million) to 29,193 families as pollution damages.

In its award delivered in March, the authority has computed that the pollution from 546 tanneries in Vellore district had affected 15,164 ha in 186 villages in seven taluks. The highest damage has been in Vaniyambadi taluk, with 4,520 ha being affected.

The award covers the period between August 12, 1991, and December 31, 1998. These are respectively the date of filing the petition before the Supreme Court by the Vellore Citizen’s Welfare Forum and the date until the production and discharge particulars were sought from the tanneries.

However, the liability of the polluting industries to compensate the affected individuals extends beyond December 31, 1998, until the damage caused to the ecology and environment by the pollution is reversed.

A copy of the award has been given to the District Collector of Vellore for collecting the amount due from the tanneries and distributing it to the victims. The Collector has been directed to start distributing the compensation, as it comes, on a pro-rata basis.

The award also states that the collector should bring the matter to the notice of the Green Bench of the Chennai High Court if the tanneries evade or refuse to pay the compensation. This is only if such a situation arises after the tenure of the authority ends of September 30, 2001.

This will include computing the damages and setting out plans for eco-restoration at Dindigul, Pallavaram, Erode and Tiruchi.