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Farmers' group to GPCB: Why refuse to seal industry-controlled 'polluting' borewells?

By Our Representative

The Farmers Action Group (FAG), a Gujarat-based group, in a letter to the chairman, Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB), taking strong exception to a GPCB letters dated July 15 and 27 to the farmers of seven villages of Vadodara district seeking to seal their borewells, has wondered why is the top state government agency refusing to take a similar step against polluting industrial units in the region.
FAG said in its letter, if farmers’ bore wells in the seven villages are to be sealed citing the Supreme Court order May 7, 2004, GPCB should simultaneously “consider sealing of all other borewells emitting chemically polluted water, including all bore wells located in industrial units and villages”, as required by the apex court. It insisted, GPCB should help implement the order “in letter and spirit, and not in piecemeal.”
Asking GPCB to take necessary remedial measures, as required by the apex court, the letter said, prior to sealing the borewells, GPCB should inform all the owners two months prior to their closure after making “appropriate arrangements within six months for drinking water and water for irrigation”.
Telling GPCB not to “frighten small farmers” by its decision to seal borewells, the letter said, “GPCB’s actions need to be reasonable. A constructive way forward needs to be determined. It needs to show compassion and tolerance. We do not want this important social issue to turn into a game of football with GPCB.”
FAB said, the 2004 apex court order had directed the state government to supply drinking and irrigation water to the villages around the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporations (GIDCs) or Vapi, Ankleshwar and the Effluent Channel Project (ECP) of Vadodara district, including to the seven villages lying along the ECP of Vadodara district, Luna, Ekalbara, Sherkhi, Umraya, Nana Ekalbara, Bhimpura and Bhavpura, whose borewells GPCB is seeking to seal.
Wondering why GPCB is “misconceiving” the Supreme Court order, which not only talked about “closure of all the hand-pumps and bore wells in the areas and wherever possible”, FAB said, it sought implementation of a project to decontaminate ground water within a time-frame.
Further, FAB said, the order had insisted that
  • The water for agricultural purposes should be made available to the farmers two months prior to the closure of the borewells which are contaminated,
  • Supply water to the affected communities through tankers on a daily basis at the cost of the government and the concerned industry associations, and 
  • Release permanent water connections through pipes for drinking purpose and some appropriate arrangement for irrigation purposes so that the dependence on tankers is removed. 
Suggesting that groundwater contamination is mainly caused by industries in the region, FAB said, “Sixteen years have passed and remediation steps have not shown any material reduction in chemical contamination of groundwater. We, or for that matter, anyone would, feel that 16 years is a very long time, and pollution is still not under control.”

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