Environment Support Group

Englehard Highland’s Dye and Pigment plant in Dakshin Kannada – Coloring US Dollar Bills


Ever wonder where they make the green dyes and pigments for United States currency? Ever heard of Kandandale village in the Dakshin Kannada district of the southern Indian state of Karnataka, India?

In the mid-1990s, Engelhard Highland Pvt. Ltd, a joint venture between the US based M/s Engelhard and the India based M/s Highland Pvt. Ltd. proposed the establishment of a dye and pigment manufacturing unit near Kadandale village in the ecologically sensitive Dakshin Kannada District. A 100% export-oriented unit, the plant would manufacture pigments and dyes to be used to color United States currency. Total produce from the factory would be minimal (a few truck loads per month), and would be shipped across the world to the USA. This raised questions as to whether the project was yet another case of dumping a hazardous industry in the third world, thus externalizing part of the environmental and social costs of producing “greenbacks”.

ESG provided solidarity and support to the local communities who grouped as the Shambavi River Protection Committee and together formed a strong coherent voice in questioning the project, demanding basic information and lobbying for legal compliance.

Eventually construction of the dye and pigment factory was complete, machinery and effluent treatment equipment installed, without any required clearances. Realising that their demands of the company and the State were receiving no responses, the villagers of the area decided to take upon themselves the implementation of the provisions of Section 33A of the Water Act,1974. This section essentially provides the Pollution Control Board powers to deny industries access to power, water and other public utilities for gross violation of the Act.

When the State fails to uphold the law it becomes obligatory on the people to protect the letter and spirit of the law to ensure the wider public interest. It was incumbent upon them to cut off access to the site and erect barriers to entry. A bridge spanning a small ravine presented the only point of access to the Engelhard facility; the villagers demolished this bridge thus cutting off site access. Such strong moves not only showed they could resist the threat of the project and the threats by officials against them, but also demonstrated very visually the extents they would go to uphold the law and defend their lives and livelihoods. The level of local public support had by now reached such heights that construction stopped and the project was eventually abandoned. However, there was never any official move by the Government to investigate how such gross violations involving very senior officials and elected representatives was allowed to occur. Engelhard for its part, claimed with the United States Securities Exchange Commission that their withdrawal from the project was for financial reasons only!

ESG continues to campaign with the Government to make an Expert Committee report public and is pursuing action against Engelhard and its consultants for engaging in such corrupt and illegal acts and abusing human rights of the local communities through terror tactics.


Representation filed:

  • Representation From: The Villagers of Kadandale and Neighbouring Village Submitted to: The Hon’ble Expert Committee appointed by the Karnataka Government during their site visit to enquire into the violations of M/s. Engelhard Highland Pvt. Ltd. on 18 September 1997

Letters to Government Authorities:

  • Letter to Member Secretary, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board re: The establishment of an hazardous dyes manufacturing unit at Kadandale village, Kodange, Karkala Taluk, Dakshina Kannada district proposed by M/s. Engel Hard Highland Pvt, Ltd. from K. Subbaiah Shetty and on behalf of villagers of Kadandale [Similar letters were also sent to the Karnataka Dept. of Ecology and Environment and Karnataka State Town and Country Planning Board]
  • Letter to the Hon. Shri. A. B. Vajpayee, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha re: In earnest seeking your intervention to stop the establishment of an highly hazardous dyes manufacturing unit by M/s. Engelhard Highland Pvt. Ltd. in the environmentally fragile region of Kadandale village in Karkala Taluk, Dakshina Kannada from K. Vasudeva Rao, Managing Director, Hotel Woodlands, Bangalore, August 22, 1997 [Similar letters were also sent to certain Members of Parliament in New Delhi and the Leader of the Opposition of the Karnataka State Assembly.

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