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As Gujarat govt denies industries discharge polluted water, environmentalists write to PM

By Our Representative
The Gujarat government’s environmental watchdog, Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) has denied the strong allegation levelled by two top environmentalists, Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant, that industrial units of Vadodara are polluting groundwater by discharging untreated wastewater. Belonging to the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS), based in Vadodara, the environmentalists took samples of groundwater early this year with the help of GPCB officials in two villages of Vadodara district and analyzed by GPCB laboratory in Gandhinagar.
The results of the samples suggested of the 21 samples taken in two villages of Vadodara district, 16 were assessed as highly contaminated – these were, in fact, found to be discharging reddish, brownish, reddish, or yellowish water, containing “dangerously very high COD (chemical oxygen demand) levels.”
In reply to the complaint they had made to GPCB, a senior GPCB official, DP Shah, who is a GPCB environmental engineer, has said that whenever an industry is found “violating” norms or environmental laws, GPCB takes “stringent action” against such industrial units, going so far as to order their closure and prohibit production activity, adding, officials have inspected the effluent channels and have found “that no wastewater is being flowing through leakages.”
Calling the GPCB official’s reply “perfunctory, non-serious, and casual”, the environmentalists have shot a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, saying, the reply runs counter to the Supreme Court order, dated February 22, 2017 and the National Green Tribunal orders dated August 3, 2018 and February 19, 2019 in the matter in the pleas filed by PSS. They have forwarded copies of the letter to senior environment officials of Government of India and Gujarat government.
Wondering whether the GPCB reply is a “roadblock”, the environmentalists say in their fresh letter, the effluent discharging authority, Vadodara Enviro Channel Limited (VECL) officials have “already admitted before GPCB as well as the farmers and villagers that joints have not been properly fitted, as a result of which, pipes are leaking.”
They add, “Any delay in stopping these chemical effluent leaks along the rich agricultural lands can have long lasting consequences. It is highly unlikely, but if it is GPCB engineers who have come to the conclusions, this badly laid pipe-work has multiple leaking joints from day one. Unfortunately, these are quickly covered up with sandy loam soil, without any stopping of the leaks.”
The letter demands declaration of “chemical emergency” in order to “reduce further harm to the people and the environment”, insisting, on the need to file “a criminal case against all the industries” even as demanding “exemplary action against their main personnel for contamination of groundwater till they prove that they are not responsible for contamination of groundwater.”
Insisting that the case “should be heard in a special court on a day to day basis, the letter wants that “criminal” should be filed against Gujarat government officials directly or indirectly responsible “for their failure in performing their duties astutely and timely manner, in spite of repeated complaints, in preventing the contamination of groundwater at irreversible level.”
Seeking to immediately cancel Consent to Operate (CTO) and Environment Clearance (EC) granted to “all the defaulting polluting industries located in the industrial units responsible for polluting groundwater, especially in Central Gujarat, the letter also seeks the need to “monitor, using latest flow meters and other required and reliable instruments, the use and misuse of groundwater by industries from their premises.”
At the same time, the letter demands “ad-hoc exemplary monetary compensation” along with medical services to the farmers and villagers who have suffered from the groundwater pollution” on the basis of the “polluter pays principle” at the rate of Rs 2 lakh per well/bore well whose waters are contaminated over the last 3 years, Rs 5 lakhs per well/borewell whose waters are contaminated over the last 3-5 years, and Rs 10 lakh per well/borewell whose waters are contaminated for over more than 5 years.”
Also seeking “lump sum ad-hoc compensation of Rs 15,000 per month per well/borewell until decontamination of the groundwater is achieved”, the letter also demands compensation against the impact of groundwater contamination on animal husbandry activities and damage to agricultural land. It seeks appointment of a “competent expert committee, including key people from the local villages and voluntary organisations, to assess the ongoing and past damages to quantify the real compensation payable to the farmers for the damage done.”

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