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Industries dumping effluents into Narmada, destroying Adivasis' organic farms: Medha

By Rajiv Shah* 

Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar believes that it is not just rehabilitation issues which nag the Sardar Sarovar dam affected people, especially Adivasis who have lived along the Narmada river for centuries. 
The river water is now facing excessive sand mining, on one hand, and effluent discharge in Narmada and its tributaries, on the other, making people increasingly restive, Patkar tells Counterview in an interview (part 2*):
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Q: Apart from rehabilitation, which other issues, in your view, are affecting people living next to the Narmada river today?
A: Since in 2019, when they filled up the dam to the full reservoir level, 138 metres, we notice, the river is going down and down and down...
Q: Is it because of the climate change?
A: Partly, but the main reason is illegal, unbound, unwanted sand mining. Just as Yamuna got finished, Narmada is following the same pattern. We won the case against illegal mining. There are also a number of judgments, like the Supreme Court order of February 24, 2012, and National Green Tribunal judgments of 2013. Yet, illegal mining continues to be blessed by politicians. 
Coupled with this, the river water is getting increasingly polluted. This is proved by the fact that the officials coming from Bhopal to give certificate to organic farmers, many of them belonging to our organisation, say: you will not get the certificate if you are irrigating with Narmada waters, because it is no more organic water. It is full of chemicals.
Q: What kind of chemicals?
A: Industrial estates are throwing effluents…
Q: Which states?
A: Particularly Madhya Pradesh. Ajnar river mingles with Karan river, which mingles with Narmada. The whole course is full of effluents. It is no more organic water. Then there are no sewage treatment plants (STPs). The drainage of all the cities and towns is going into Narmada. 
The state pollution board report on Narmada says that 150 million litres per day drainage is flowing into Narmada. It is a horrible scenario. Now Ganga is being discussed, many crores of rupees have been allocated to clean it up. In Madhya Pradesh, too, many people are raising the issue. 
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Congress leader Digvijay Singh have taken a round of Narmada to assess the situation. The chief minister did a helicopter assessment, while Digvijay Singh, who did a padyatra, formed Narmada Sanrakshan Nyas, under which he held a big, forceful meeting in which we also made our presentation. 
The opposition needs to raise the issue more forcefully. Narmada bhakts too need to raise the issue. But that is not happening beyond a point. Those who are directly affected are raising the issue. They are now protesting against the dams which are yet to come up. Six of them in the 1,308-km-long Narmada Valley were cancelled. But after Chauhan returned to power, these are being revived.
Q: How is the pollution issue being taken up by NBA and others?
A: We have written to governments, we are making it a public issue. Adivasi organisations arranged a big rally after 40 Adivasi villages which have lost contact with pure water. Their borewell water has become dark…
Q: Where exactly?
A: In the Manpur region along the Mumbai-Agra road. It is also called the Indore Express Highway. There is a dhaba, along whose land the effluents are being thrown. The owner is said to be charging Rs 40,000 per dump. The dumped material slips into Ajnar river. From the top of the Manpur ghat, if you look down, pure water is coming from one side, but beyond that land and beneath the hills, black water could be seen flowing.
Q: So pollution is near Indore, or beyond Indore?
A: It is between Indore and Khargone. And it is because of the industrial estates in the area…
Q: So the Narmada reservoir is also be affected?
A: Yes. That reservoir is getting this water only. It is Ajnar water, which is the same water that is coming to Narmada…
Q: Any test has been carried out?
A: The taste of the water has changed. Not without reason, fully organic farmers are not permitted to use Narmada water for irrigation. But the whole population is drinking that water. This water is going up to the Sardar Sarover dam in Gujarat and beyond. So, Gujarat is affected, and so is Maharashtra. You can’t say that it is now pure river, that you would get moksha after drinking it. 
From the top of the Manpur ghat, if you look down, pure water is coming from one side, but beyond that, black water could be seen flowing
This is one part. Another part is, there is a lot of propaganda around STPs. The Madhya Pradesh government is not allowing nagarpalikas to set them up. The Badwani nagarpalika, which is Congress controlled, was not allowed to set up STP. They gave the contract to an Israeli company, Tahal, which has not done even 25% of work during the last five years. There is so much of callousness around it. They only do slogans like “Narmada ki jai”. 
Now, tourism is sought to be developed on the banks of Narmada. Recently, the sadhus of Onkareshwar, a pilgrim spot, surrounded the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. Now they understand: the hills are being broken. Like in Gujarat, where the statue of Sardar Patel was erected for tourism purpose, in Onkareshwar also they are planning a statue. This has shocked one and all.
Q: What about water transportation in Narmada? What is your take?
A: A Rajya Sabha MP belonging to Badwani, Sumer Singh, is promoting water transportation. If cargo is allowed to flow as part of the national project, it would not require any permission, which is what government notice of 2020 says. Vested interests are behind it. It the same vested interests who are behind illegal sand mining. Nobody is talking about it, except us. We have the stay order. 
The tribunal had said, the land which was acquired for the Sardar Sarovar project cannot be used for any other purpose. Yet, they are leasing out river bed for sand mining. It’s illegal. Water area is being destroyed. In districts like Hoshangabad, the bores next to the Narmada banks are going dry. Ground water is being affected. 
Fisheries are being affected. We have 32 fishing cooperatives in Madhya Pradesh and 21 in Maharashtra. We have decided that if reservoirs are handed over to contractors, we will not take this lying down. Fishes belong to those whose land was submerged because of the Sardar Sarovar dam: this is our slogan.
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*Editor, Counterview. This is the second and last part of the interview with Medha Patkar. Click here for the first part

Comments

No one is alive now... Nor will we.. lets make this place a little beautiful..lets make harmony.. rulers have changed but their greed for more power didnt... Lets not be fooled by them anymore... Lets stand in Unity

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