Sofia Ashraf’s Viral Video Makes Her Darling of Environmentalists
While wrapping up the production of the video song ‘Kodaikanal Wont’ within a mere three-day period, the creative team behind it never thought that their brainchild would earn a reaction this massive from the environment-conscious society. Sofia Ashraf, a Chennaiite, with the support of her peers, has become the new face and voice of not only the protest against mercury pollution by Unilever in Kodaikanal, but also all the pro-environment movements taking place across the country.
The thermometer factory of Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) was set up in Kodaikanal near one of the most important rivers in Tamil Nadu- River Vaigai. The highly toxic mercury was allegedly dumped in the yard near the factory and was sold as scrap to a local merchant in the town. This was in direct breach of the organization’s guidelines as admitted by Unilever itself. In addition, this added to the exposure of toxic waste to not merely those who had worked in the company but also to the general public especially those living along the riverbanks. HUL denied dumping contaminated glass waste in the area and also refuted the claims of ex-employees regarding mercury poisoning. Despite several independent and government investigations and interference, the 15-year-old agitation still continues to hold Unilever responsible for the toxic pollution in Kodaikanal.
In her video, the Chennai-based rapper asks Unilever to step up and ‘make amends now’ and declares that ‘Kodaikanal wont step down’ until it is done. She also questions the organization’s widely advertised high standards of social consciousness and responsibility. It is indeed a common query as to why a multi-billion company such as HUL has not yet addressed its responsibility to the environment and ex-employees which would cost a few hundred crore.
The issue of industrial pollution is nothing new and not restricted to one company or town. In Kerala we have seen several agitations against contamination of environment. Grasim Rayon’s toxic-contamination of Chaliyar River, Nitta Gelatin’s slow poisoning of Chalakudy River in Kathikudam, and the Coca Cola plant in Plachimada all drew vociferous protests. However Sofia Ashraf, with her novel protest, is certainly giving a lesson in how to garner support and shame big industrial houses to clean up their act.