FLASHBACK: Residents of Sukhan Trace in Barrackpore protesting the fish processing facility in the area, which they say is posing a serious health hazard. (Image: RISHI RAGOONATH)

RADHICA DE SILVA

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Days after Barrackpore residents staged a protest, calling for the shutdown of a fish processing facility in their community, the Environmental Management Authority has confirmed it is investigating the matter.

Responding to questions from Guardian Media, the EMA said the matter is registered with the EMA under Complaint Ticket # 6179.

“The EMA is coordinating a joint site visit with the Town and Country Planning Division, the County Medical Officer of Health, and the Princes Town Regional Corporation,” the Authority said.

All of these agencies will be investigating the complaint, the Authority added.

Renusha Boodlal-Sookdeo, who was among those involved in the protest, said they filed a complaint with the EMA last July after the stench coming from the facility got unbearable.

Showing an e-mail thread from the EMA, Boodlal-Sookdeo said they enquired from the EMA whether a Certificate of Environmental Clearance was needed for the operation of a fish processing facility located within a residential community.

“The EMA said that CEC was required and that there has been no record of a CEC application filed at the EMA at that time,” Boodlal-Sookdeo said.

She explained that a fish processing operation, including de-finning of sharks, and the production of salted fish products were taking place at that location.

“Name called even distributed a box of ‘salt fish’ to some residents recently. We have informed him of the debilitating stench coming from his property and the effect it has on us however he has made light of these concerns,” Boodlal-Sookdeo said.

She noted that the operation started without any consultation with residents a few months ago and has become worse.

“Residents are unable to leave windows and doors open due to the overwhelming stench of rotten fish. We cannot ventilate our homes. We cannot exercise in our yards, hang our laundry to air dry, or do any work outdoors because of the nauseous stench,” she said.

When Guardian Media visited the stench was nauseating. There were flies on the fish which were left to dry on shelves.

“We are very concerned that this facility will expand and the stench and release of waste emanating from this facility will destroy our quality of life,” Boodlal-Sookdeo said.

She said the facility has negatively impacted the environment, affected air quality, and has made residents sick.

When Guardian Media spoke to the owner of the facility on Thursday, he said the facility was not in a residential community but was in an agricultural zone. He said the reason the facility reeked was that villagers had continually sabotaged his generators.

He said, “We have all approvals. The Ministry and the EMA are working with us. We have a set of equipment which is purifying the air and sending it out back.” However, he said these odor neutralizers are affected when the generators go down.