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Gujarat's concerned citizens demand to make public details of "polluted" Narmada waters

Counterview Desk
Several concerned citizens* of Gujarat led by top Vadodara-based environmentalist Rohit Prajapati have in a letter to the chairperson, Narmada Control Authority, Government of India have demanded immediate disclosure of reasons behind the presence of sulphide and decrease in dissolved oxygen (DO) in Sardar Sarovar Dam and its canals, which has led to the death of fishes.
The letter -- copies of which have also gone to the Gujarat chief secretary; principal secretary, Narmada; chairman and managing director, Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd; and chairperson and member secretary, Gujarat Water Supply & Sewerage Board (GWSSB) -- says that authorities are spending huge amount to develop tourism in this area, but don't have resources to inform the public about the quality of crucial water source or had played down the crisis for reasons best known to them.

Text of the letter:

The Sardar Sarovar Dam is understood to be the lifeline of Gujarat and is considered to be the solution to water problem of almost the entire state.
Recent media reports say that the dissolved oxygen (DO) levels are decreasing in Sardar Sarovar Dam waters and may have caused the sudden mass death of fishes.
This raises concerns about the quality of water and possible contamination. The media reports indicate that the authorities are now inclined to believe that a seismic activity at the bottom of the reservoir could have caused a temporary release of toxic gases.
The concerned authorities are reportedly seeking the help of the Oceanography Department that is most likely to have the equipments and know-how to collect samples from the base of reservoirs.RB Trivedi of the Ankleshwar Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) said to a press reporter:
"We can confirm that the toxicity reported in the dam waters on January 30 was not a result of any external pollutant or waste or chemical being dumped into the dam as many rumors are making rounds. In fact, this incident has necessitated that a thorough qualitative and quantitative analysis of the water has to be undertaken. What we can say as of now is that the level of dissolved oxygen (DO) was very low from its ideal point of 4.2 mg/liter."
We strongly feel that the water samples from the bottom of the dam must be collected and analysed to find out the real reasons behind the decrease in dissolved oxygen.
It is also reported in the news that the silt at the base of dams that have stagnant reservoirs could emit toxic gases following a seismic activity at the base. The GPCB reportedly confirmed that it had sought the seismology report of the Narmada basin from January 25 onwards to ascertain if any such tremor could have triggered the toxicity.
One more explanation given to people is that the monsoon deficit for the last two years and the simultaneous increase in the height of the dam meant that there was no overflow from the reservoir. This caused the water to remain stagnant for over two years. The presence of the original aquatic flora and fauna as well as the accumulated silt in the stagnant water can result in acidic reactions with the oxygen in the water.
The preliminary report of GWSSB has indicated the presence of sulphide in the water. And, that is why the water supply to 138 villages in Narmada and Chhota Udepur districts was stopped and later on started.
The concerned authorities are spending huge amount for tourism in this very area to attract tourists. It is surprising that they had no resource to inform the public about the quality of crucial water source or had played down the crisis for reasons best known to them.
The piecemeal information released through media by various authorities raises fundamental question about the crisis. With so much of public and media coverage with various explanations being offered we, the people of Gujarat, request the concerned department to make the following information public and keep the public updated with all the related information:
  • When and how did the concerned authorities come to know of the problem? 
  • Who had reported the gas emission? Based on what evidence or data? 
  • Which departments are doing investigation? 
  • Status report of the investigation done uptill now. 
  • Interim report of the alarming situation. 
  • When is the final report expected? 
  • Reasons behind the incident and plan of action to prevent such incidents in future. 
  • Short term and long term plan of the concerned authorities to thwart and address such crisis in the future.
We ask you to immediately display the above information in detail in public domain and also by giving prominent public notice / announcements in the newspapers for the larger public.
---
*Signatories: Rohit Prajapati, Sagar Rabari, Saroop Dhruv, Charul Bharwada, Raju Solanki, Rajni Dave, Swati Desai, Prasad Chacko, Hiren Gandhi , Mudita Vidrohi, Anand Mazgaonkar, Vinay Mahajan, Krishnakant, Dev Desai, Lakhan Musafir, Praful Vasava, Hemant Shah, Mahesh Pandya, Manishi Jani, Rohit Shukla, and Indukumar Jani

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