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Central, Gujarat govts told to clarify: Why hide facts on pollution in Narmada Dam, canals?

By Our Representative
In a letter to Gujarat and Central government authorities, top environmentalist Rohit Prajapati has wondered why is it such a big secret that it is refusing to share information on reasons behind the presence of sulphide and decrease in dissolved oxygen (DO) in the Sardar Sarovar Dam and its canals.
Referring to water samples taken in February 2019 by his team of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) activists, Prajapati said, though he had declared the pollution level, and informed about it to officials concerned on February 12, 2019, he has still not received any reply.
The letter, sent, among others, to the chairman, Narmada Control Authority, Gujarat chief secretary, and the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Nigam Ltd (SSNNL) chairman, says that the state government declared that the concerned authorities were seeking the help of the Oceanography Department, which has the equipment and expertise to collect samples from the base of reservoirs, wondering what has happened thereafter.
Suggesting confusion on the issue, the letter says, it has been reported that the silt at the base of dams that have stagnant reservoirs could emit toxic gases following a seismic activity at the base. Hence, the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) has sought the seismology report of the Narmada basin from January 25 onwards to ascertain if any such tremor could have triggered the toxicity.
Yet another explanation forwarded, it says, 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.
Meanwhile, says the letter, the preliminary report of Gujarat Water Supply and Sewage Board (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 again for reasons not known to us.
Wondering if water samples from different depths, especially from the bottom of the dam, have been collected and analysed, the letter says, while the concerned authorities are spending huge sums for the unplanned tourism in an ad-hoc manner in this very area to attract tourists, "they had no resource to inform the public about the quality of crucial water source."
The letter asks the authorities to declare when and how did they come to know of the problem, who reported about gas emission based on what evidence or data, and which departments and officials has done the investigation. It seeks investigations reports and the final report on the issue, plan of action to prevent such incidents, and short term and long term measures address such a crisis in the future.

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