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Vadodara effluent channel dumping untreated waste water in Gujarat river: MoEFCC told

The J Point of Mahi river, where the sample was taken
By Our Representative
In letter to the Union minister for environment, forests and climate change, with copies to senior officials of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) and their counterparts in Gujarat, senior environmentalists Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant have said that it is “utterly shocking” that the Effluent Channel of Vadodara Enviro Channel Ltd (VECL) continues to release untreated wastewater.
A body which is is in the business of conveyance of the treated wastewater for more than 250 industrial units in and around Vadodara, Gujarat’s business capital, VECL, says the letter, is doing this despite the notice of contempt of the Supreme Court order Dated July 22, 2017.
Also addressed to senior officials of VECL, Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), MoEFCC, the letter says, for the “non-compliance of GPCB norms of industrial effluents” was found at the J Point, Sarod village, which situated on the banks of Mahi river before it merges into the Bay of Khambhat.
Pointing out that the results of the samples were taken on May 28, 2020, and analysed in a private laboratory, the Paryavaran Surakshan Samiti (PSS) environmentalists say, these reveal that chemical oxygen demand (COD) at J Point was found to be “1065 mg/l (Norm: 250 mg/l), Chloride 7497 mg/l (Norm 600 mg/l), Sulfate 1473 mg/l (Norm 100 mg/l), and Ammoniacal Nitrogen (NH3-N) 232.96 mg/l (Norm 50 mg/l).”
“J Point is consistently not able to meet the prescribed GPCB norms since its inception”, the letter says, accusing concerned Gujarat officials for “openly” allowing the VECL to “consistently and admittedly” violating the environment laws, and “turning a blind eye” to the Supreme Court and National Green Tribunal orders.

Text:

We have taken a number of samples of the effluent at ‘J Point’ all exceeding the prescribed norms since its inception. This excess continues unabated. Even the result of the last sample taken on 28.05.2020 at 9.29 am reveals that COD at ‘J Point’ is 1065 mg/l (Norm: 250 mg/l), Chloride 7497 mg/l (Norms 600 mg/l), Sulfate 1473 mg/l (Norms 100 mg/l), and Ammoniacal Nitrogen (NH3-N) 232.96 mg/l (Norms 50 mg/l). Copies of Videos are annexed herewith the letter.
Investigations from 31 July 2019 onwards revealed and exposed that VECL’s pipeline, was and is still leaking at many points. Even now in the height of summer, the leakage of pipeline is clearly visible. This was also shown to the officials of GPCB, Vadodara, on 26 May 2020, and 1 June 2020.
It seems that The Vadodara Enviro Channel Limited (VECL) has knowingly and explicitly decided not to respect the Environment Laws of India, Consolidated Consent and Authorization (CC&A), dated 06.01.2015, and above said Orders, of the Supreme Court and National Green Tribunal.

VECL and concerned authorities are violating Supreme Court orders

We are extremely disturbed that the Chief Secretary, Gujarat State; and the Chairman & Member Secretary of the GPCB are openly allowing the VECL to consistently and admittedly violate the environment laws of the land. They are also turning a blind eye to the known and admitted violation of abovementioned Orders of the Supreme Court and National Green Tribunal.
This amounts to Contempt of the Supreme Court Order and exemplary punishment needs to be imposed by concerned authorities.

Critical contamination recorded

There have been a series of letters written by PSS and Farmers’ Action Group (FAG) and repeated investigations have been conducted by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), and various agencies appointed by the concerned authorities. 
These records clearly demonstrate that the groundwater of the villages, ponds, and agricultural areas along and around the ECP is critically contaminated and needs immediate intervention by the concerned authorities to stop further pollution of any kind whatsoever.
The authorities must scientifically demarcate and analyse the pollution-affected areas and then implement, well-devised, short-term, and long-term plans, to completely remediate the surface water and land, as well as the groundwater of the affected area.

CC&A defied

Since the year 2000, we have been continuously communicating with the concerned authorities about the above issues and about the non-compliance of ‘Effluent Channel Project’ (ECP) of Vadodara Enviro Channel Limited. There, unfortunately, has been no response from the authorities in terms of definitive actions on the ground.
Our continuous appeals have been responded with undeniable display of their nonchalance and lack of commitment to the well thought out environment and laws of the land, which they are responsible to implement.
The Consolidated Consent and Authorization (CC&A), dated 06.01.2015, of VECL clearly mentions, “Condition 10. VECL shall have only one outlet for the discharge of its effluent and no effluent shall be discharged without requisite treatment & without meeting with the GPCB norms...”
Affected small farmers and villagers have no choice but to use  contaminated water, the only source of water for farming and livelihood
There are many more such terms and conditions of CC&A kept at 4.1, 4.2, 8, 9, 11, 13, 16, 17, 19, 21, 27, 28, 29, 30, 34, 36, 37, 39, 41, & 43 but the concerned authorities have failed to look into the compliance of these crucial terms and conditions of CC&A.

Damage and compensation

Neither the GPCB nor the industrialists have denied that the groundwater is severely contaminated, and that the contamination is spreading in different areas. It has reached irreversible / irreparable levels because of incessant industrial activities.
Rohit Prajapati at J Point
There are number farmers who had been practicing organic farming but because of the groundwater pollution, they are no longer considered organic. Affected farmers with small landholding and villagers often have no choice but to use this contaminated water, often the only source of water, for farming and their livelihood, including everyday use in their own households, and for their cows and buffaloes. The produce of these farms are consumed by the adjacent urban areas, putting the overall health of the region at stake.
The farmers who are affected by groundwater contamination and pollution have not been compensated in terms of money or in kind. This is despite the fact that nobody disputes the fact that the problem of contamination of groundwater and air pollution is because of the polluting industries located around the villages and areas vis-à-vis the ECP. Industries and VECL need to be pronounced as polluters. Polluters need to pay.
Keeping in mind the above stated alarming facts and undisputed realities even accepted by CPCB, GPCB, Vadodara Enviro Channel Limited, and the industries located in this area, we can surely declare this grave situation as a major “Chemical Emergency”.

Action needs to be taken immediately

  1. Declare a ‘Chemical Emergency’ in the ‘ECP Industrial Cluster’ and include ECP area as a Critically Polluted Area.
  2. Appoint a team of experts to determine and monitor the quality of surface water and land as well as the groundwater and their levels on a periodic basis. 
  3. Devise short-term and long-term plans for remedial measures to decontaminate and remediate / restore the surface water and land as well as the groundwater levels and quality based on the “Polluter Pays Principle”. 
  4. Impose an immediate moratorium on expansion of the existing industries and for any new industries in this area. 
  5. Devise an option of shifting of known polluting industries from this area in the interest of life, livelihood, and environment of the area. 
  6. These efforts must ensure regenerative design principles, follows all environment related laws in letter and spirit, and not just shift the same type of conventional industrial activities to other areas. 
  7. Take exemplary action, against all the defaulting polluting industries located in Nandesari Industrial Estate, Vadodara Industrial Complex, and the ‘ECP industrial Cluster’. 
  8. Initiate criminal case against all the concerned and responsible officers of ‘Vadodara Enviro Channel Limited’ and defaulting industries. 
  9. Implement, at the earliest, the Order, of the Supreme Court and National Green Tribunal. 
  10. Appoint a high level committee of the MoEF&CC, CPCB, GPCB, local state authority, representatives of affected villagers and the representatives of the voluntary organisations working in this area on environment and independent expertise to help design, monitor, and evaluate all these works carried out in the area and submit its reports to the concerned authorities and the local peoples affected by the pollution and contamination, on a regular basis. 
If authorities fail to do so, it will convey a wrong message to all the polluting industries and VECL that the concerned authorities are not serious about implementing the above Supreme Court Orders.
We expect your prompt and positive response in the interest of life, livelihoods, and the environment. If this does not happen, we may take action as may be advised.

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