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Environment Health

Vadodara’s industries continue to pollute river and groundwater with impunity

Even though environmentalists have video evidence to support their claim, the industries are allegedly given free rein to operate by the authorities

Sabrangindia 08 Jul 2020

VADODARA

Vadodara Industrial Cluster which has about 300 industries is allegedly dumping effluents into Gujarat's pristine rivers. Activists have shared evidence of such pollution for decades, but industries still have the gall to allegedly ask pollution control boards to go soft on them as they’re struggling during the lockdown!

Independent People’s Tribunal’s findings in 1999

In February 1999, The Indian People’s Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights headed by Late Justice Hosbet Suresh was launched to understand the spread and ramifications of industrialization and pollution in the ‘Golden Corridor’ of Gujarat. The inquiry was held in response to the requests from Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Vadodara Kamdar Union, Vyavasahik Swastha Swaksha Mandal and other concerned individuals and organisations active in the area. The panel of experts included environmental lawyers, health specialists and occupational health specialists and scientists.

The tribunal had studied the Effluent Channel Project (ECP) which commenced in 1983. The 55.6 kms long closed masonry conduit passes through agricultural lands in 24 villages in Vadodara and Bharuch districts. We were informed that initially only 13 industries discharged their effluents through the Channel, but now at least 150 industries are members of the ECP. The ECP meets Gulf of Cambay at Sarod village in Bharuch District, at J Point where the effluent is discharged into the estuary.

While in 1999 the number of industries was found to be 150, environmentalists say that now there are at least 300 industries dumping waste water into the ECP. A thesis conducted by Mr. Avnesh Sharma titled “Environment Impact Assessment Along the Effluent Channel from Baroda to Jambusar and At its Confluence with Mahi Estuary at the Gulf of Cambay with Special Reference to Heavy Metals” had pointed out increasing heavy metal contamination –

 “The total solids was quite high with the value of nearly 2000 mg. per liter at J Point and it was hardly 200 gms per liter upstream of J Point. There was an overall increase of 34 % between 1991 and 1993. Correspondingly, both dissolved solids and suspended solids have also registered an increase.  This is reflected in the increasing concentration of these parameters upstream. A matter of concern is the dissolved oxygen content at the J Point which in the span of 3 year study period has shown a decrease from a maximum of 7 mg per liter to 6.1 mg per liter in 1993. Correspondingly the COD value has increased by 12%. Disconcertingly, the COD and BOD values in the upstream area in turn have increased 100 and 332% respectively.”

The thesis also pointed out at an increase in the concentration of chlorides, sulfates and nitrates apart from a disturbing trend in the increasing concentrations of cyanide, oil grease and phenols at the three points of the study from 1991 to 1993. The study also found metal contamination of the soil from an area irrigated by the ECP effluent water and possible seepage of water and contaminants into the underground aquifers over the years.

Not only this, the tribunal had also found that the people along the ‘Golden Corridor’ complained of asthma, cancer, infertility and related problems, corrosion of fingers, toes and perforation of the nasal septum (wall separating the nostrils), skin irritation and other health problems.

GUJARAT

GUJARAT

 

Soon after the news of the tribunal’s examination to be held at the site, the Chief Executive of the ECP had replied that values of the metal were “well below the standards”, denied that there was seepage of the ECP effluent into tube wells and that the effluent was safe enough to be mixed with the sea and didn’t harm aquatic life. What was more appalling was that he said that there were “elaborate arrangements” for proper dispersion of the out fall of the ECP and elaborate arrangements “gun men, guards, notices and hoarding not to use the ECP effluent for agriculture”. He had also stated that “some farmers may be using channel effluent not only because they may not have a source of fresh water supply but because of the temptation to use the channel water which is free of cost and is not found to damage the crops.

The findings of the tribunal on the ECP case were that the ECP project was found to be ill-conceived. The tribunal pointed out that if the idea of the ECP was to transport highly polluted effluent into the sea to save the villages from its deleterious effect, even that purpose wasn’t fully served as there was heavy metal contamination found in the soil and vegetation around the channel. The tribunal had recommended that the ECP construct an underground closed pipeline to carry the effluents so as to minimize the risk of farmers using the effluent for irrigation of unauthorized entities dumping into the channel.

From 1999 - 2020

From 1999 until now, environmentalists have been communicating the issues of non-compliance of the ECP by Vadodara Enviro Channel Limited, but even then there has been no definitive action taken against them.

In latest reports, the members of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) in 2018, along with the Gujarat Pollution Control Board and Farmers Action Group had undertaken a joint investigation into the status of groundwater in Vadodara’s Padra Taluka and found that the Chemical Oxygen Demand at the Huntsman International India (P) Ltd found that the Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) levels were 2225 in Abstraction Well 1 and 2959 in Well 2 inside the factory premises.

In a sample collected on October 12, 2019 Prajapati had told The Times of India that the Chemical Oxygen Demand was 1214 mg/l instead of the permissible 250 mg/l. In a sample taken on September 6, 2019, the COD at J Point was 1976 mg/l. On August 13, 2019, the COD was 1078 mg/l.

On June 1, 2020, the PSS had again written to top officials regarding the shocking violations at the J point. A consistent study of the wastewater discharged shows that prescribed norms have continuously been violated. According to the latest samples taken in May 2020, the Chemical Oxygen Demand (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).

Recent videos of the river being polluted may be viewed below.

PLEASE EMBED VIDEO HERE

 

(Video Courtesy – Rohit Prajapati)

The environmentalists had said given the contamination of the ground water, it could be said that the officials of the government officials had failed in their duties and responsibilities to act against the polluting industries. The environmentalists had called for a criminal case against all the industries around ECP demanding exemplary action and a criminal case against the Chief Secretary, the Additional Chief Secretary of Forest and Environment Department of Gujarat State, the Chairman of GPCB, the Collector(s) of Vadodara District who are and were holding the post from 2000 – 2019, for their failing in their duty, in spite of repeated complaints, in preventing the contamination of groundwater at irreversible level.

After continued complaints by the PSS on December 13 2018, the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) had issued VECL a closure notice for not complying with water quality norms and stated that if corrective measures were not taken by VECL within 30 days, it would be forced to implement closure. VECL had then moved the Gujarat High court against this notice. However, even after all these efforts by PSS and the orders by the NGT and Supreme Court, VECL was given four extensions by the GPCB even though the CC&A license had expired. GPCB cited that the extensions were given on the basis of reports saying they were trying to address the issue, DNA had reported.

In 2018, the PSS had asked for ad-hoc Exemplary Monetary Compensation along with medical services to the farmers and villagers who have suffered from groundwater pollution. This should collectively be decided by CPCB, GPCB, affected farmers, and the representatives of the Voluntary Organisation working in this area on the basis of monthly instalments per contaminated well until decontamination of well is done by way of short-term and long-term remedial measures, including but not limited to technically and scientifically sound holistic nature restoration of polluted and damaged land and water areas based on the “Polluter Pays Principle”.

However, even after repeated attempts, there has been no response of concerned authorities with regards to the setting up of “common effluent treatment plants” and “sewage treatment plants” as directed by the Supreme Court (No. 375 of 2012) or to take up in-situ remediation of sewage as directed by the National Green Tribunal (No. 673 of 2018). Not only this, the PSS said that when it approached a city Corporation and a Municipality to work out the detailed plan for investigation, improvement of the existing STPs, discontinuation of the untreated Sewage into Rivers and water bodies, it didn’t receive an adequate or satisfactory response from these authorities.

Through the years, the PSS and other organizations have not only brought evidence to support their claims of river and ground water pollution, but have also handed on a platter, to authorities, remediation measures to control the repercussions. However, even then the authorities continue to turn a blind eye to such well thought-out and researched measures, thus allowing polluting industries to escape from the clutches of the law.

Now the new draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020 proposed by the Union government is another step ensured at neglecting the much needed balance between development and environmental protection, by allowing post-facto clearance, expanding the list of projects exempted from public consultation, extending the validity period of clearance granted to mining projects and decreasing the monitoring requirement thus reducing accountability. The authorities have always turned a blind eye towards the indigenous people of the land who depend on nature for their lives and livelihood. As industrial disasters continue to spurt, the inaction of the government combined with the draft EIA 2020 is only going to further rob people of their lands and ruin the last of nature that we have left.

 

Related:

VECL consistently flouting environmental laws: Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti

Environmentalist decries continuous pollution of Daman Ganga river by Vapi industries

GPCB’s casual reply to action sought in view of dangerously very high COD level in groundwater

New sample suggests high pollution off Vadodara effluent channel, 'requires' action

 

Vadodara’s industries continue to pollute river and groundwater with impunity

Even though environmentalists have video evidence to support their claim, the industries are allegedly given free rein to operate by the authorities

VADODARA

Vadodara Industrial Cluster which has about 300 industries is allegedly dumping effluents into Gujarat's pristine rivers. Activists have shared evidence of such pollution for decades, but industries still have the gall to allegedly ask pollution control boards to go soft on them as they’re struggling during the lockdown!

Independent People’s Tribunal’s findings in 1999

In February 1999, The Indian People’s Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights headed by Late Justice Hosbet Suresh was launched to understand the spread and ramifications of industrialization and pollution in the ‘Golden Corridor’ of Gujarat. The inquiry was held in response to the requests from Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, Vadodara Kamdar Union, Vyavasahik Swastha Swaksha Mandal and other concerned individuals and organisations active in the area. The panel of experts included environmental lawyers, health specialists and occupational health specialists and scientists.

The tribunal had studied the Effluent Channel Project (ECP) which commenced in 1983. The 55.6 kms long closed masonry conduit passes through agricultural lands in 24 villages in Vadodara and Bharuch districts. We were informed that initially only 13 industries discharged their effluents through the Channel, but now at least 150 industries are members of the ECP. The ECP meets Gulf of Cambay at Sarod village in Bharuch District, at J Point where the effluent is discharged into the estuary.

While in 1999 the number of industries was found to be 150, environmentalists say that now there are at least 300 industries dumping waste water into the ECP. A thesis conducted by Mr. Avnesh Sharma titled “Environment Impact Assessment Along the Effluent Channel from Baroda to Jambusar and At its Confluence with Mahi Estuary at the Gulf of Cambay with Special Reference to Heavy Metals” had pointed out increasing heavy metal contamination –

 “The total solids was quite high with the value of nearly 2000 mg. per liter at J Point and it was hardly 200 gms per liter upstream of J Point. There was an overall increase of 34 % between 1991 and 1993. Correspondingly, both dissolved solids and suspended solids have also registered an increase.  This is reflected in the increasing concentration of these parameters upstream. A matter of concern is the dissolved oxygen content at the J Point which in the span of 3 year study period has shown a decrease from a maximum of 7 mg per liter to 6.1 mg per liter in 1993. Correspondingly the COD value has increased by 12%. Disconcertingly, the COD and BOD values in the upstream area in turn have increased 100 and 332% respectively.”

The thesis also pointed out at an increase in the concentration of chlorides, sulfates and nitrates apart from a disturbing trend in the increasing concentrations of cyanide, oil grease and phenols at the three points of the study from 1991 to 1993. The study also found metal contamination of the soil from an area irrigated by the ECP effluent water and possible seepage of water and contaminants into the underground aquifers over the years.

Not only this, the tribunal had also found that the people along the ‘Golden Corridor’ complained of asthma, cancer, infertility and related problems, corrosion of fingers, toes and perforation of the nasal septum (wall separating the nostrils), skin irritation and other health problems.

GUJARAT

GUJARAT

 

Soon after the news of the tribunal’s examination to be held at the site, the Chief Executive of the ECP had replied that values of the metal were “well below the standards”, denied that there was seepage of the ECP effluent into tube wells and that the effluent was safe enough to be mixed with the sea and didn’t harm aquatic life. What was more appalling was that he said that there were “elaborate arrangements” for proper dispersion of the out fall of the ECP and elaborate arrangements “gun men, guards, notices and hoarding not to use the ECP effluent for agriculture”. He had also stated that “some farmers may be using channel effluent not only because they may not have a source of fresh water supply but because of the temptation to use the channel water which is free of cost and is not found to damage the crops.

The findings of the tribunal on the ECP case were that the ECP project was found to be ill-conceived. The tribunal pointed out that if the idea of the ECP was to transport highly polluted effluent into the sea to save the villages from its deleterious effect, even that purpose wasn’t fully served as there was heavy metal contamination found in the soil and vegetation around the channel. The tribunal had recommended that the ECP construct an underground closed pipeline to carry the effluents so as to minimize the risk of farmers using the effluent for irrigation of unauthorized entities dumping into the channel.

From 1999 - 2020

From 1999 until now, environmentalists have been communicating the issues of non-compliance of the ECP by Vadodara Enviro Channel Limited, but even then there has been no definitive action taken against them.

In latest reports, the members of the Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti (PSS) in 2018, along with the Gujarat Pollution Control Board and Farmers Action Group had undertaken a joint investigation into the status of groundwater in Vadodara’s Padra Taluka and found that the Chemical Oxygen Demand at the Huntsman International India (P) Ltd found that the Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) levels were 2225 in Abstraction Well 1 and 2959 in Well 2 inside the factory premises.

In a sample collected on October 12, 2019 Prajapati had told The Times of India that the Chemical Oxygen Demand was 1214 mg/l instead of the permissible 250 mg/l. In a sample taken on September 6, 2019, the COD at J Point was 1976 mg/l. On August 13, 2019, the COD was 1078 mg/l.

On June 1, 2020, the PSS had again written to top officials regarding the shocking violations at the J point. A consistent study of the wastewater discharged shows that prescribed norms have continuously been violated. According to the latest samples taken in May 2020, the Chemical Oxygen Demand (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).

Recent videos of the river being polluted may be viewed below.

PLEASE EMBED VIDEO HERE

 

(Video Courtesy – Rohit Prajapati)

The environmentalists had said given the contamination of the ground water, it could be said that the officials of the government officials had failed in their duties and responsibilities to act against the polluting industries. The environmentalists had called for a criminal case against all the industries around ECP demanding exemplary action and a criminal case against the Chief Secretary, the Additional Chief Secretary of Forest and Environment Department of Gujarat State, the Chairman of GPCB, the Collector(s) of Vadodara District who are and were holding the post from 2000 – 2019, for their failing in their duty, in spite of repeated complaints, in preventing the contamination of groundwater at irreversible level.

After continued complaints by the PSS on December 13 2018, the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) had issued VECL a closure notice for not complying with water quality norms and stated that if corrective measures were not taken by VECL within 30 days, it would be forced to implement closure. VECL had then moved the Gujarat High court against this notice. However, even after all these efforts by PSS and the orders by the NGT and Supreme Court, VECL was given four extensions by the GPCB even though the CC&A license had expired. GPCB cited that the extensions were given on the basis of reports saying they were trying to address the issue, DNA had reported.

In 2018, the PSS had asked for ad-hoc Exemplary Monetary Compensation along with medical services to the farmers and villagers who have suffered from groundwater pollution. This should collectively be decided by CPCB, GPCB, affected farmers, and the representatives of the Voluntary Organisation working in this area on the basis of monthly instalments per contaminated well until decontamination of well is done by way of short-term and long-term remedial measures, including but not limited to technically and scientifically sound holistic nature restoration of polluted and damaged land and water areas based on the “Polluter Pays Principle”.

However, even after repeated attempts, there has been no response of concerned authorities with regards to the setting up of “common effluent treatment plants” and “sewage treatment plants” as directed by the Supreme Court (No. 375 of 2012) or to take up in-situ remediation of sewage as directed by the National Green Tribunal (No. 673 of 2018). Not only this, the PSS said that when it approached a city Corporation and a Municipality to work out the detailed plan for investigation, improvement of the existing STPs, discontinuation of the untreated Sewage into Rivers and water bodies, it didn’t receive an adequate or satisfactory response from these authorities.

Through the years, the PSS and other organizations have not only brought evidence to support their claims of river and ground water pollution, but have also handed on a platter, to authorities, remediation measures to control the repercussions. However, even then the authorities continue to turn a blind eye to such well thought-out and researched measures, thus allowing polluting industries to escape from the clutches of the law.

Now the new draft Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) 2020 proposed by the Union government is another step ensured at neglecting the much needed balance between development and environmental protection, by allowing post-facto clearance, expanding the list of projects exempted from public consultation, extending the validity period of clearance granted to mining projects and decreasing the monitoring requirement thus reducing accountability. The authorities have always turned a blind eye towards the indigenous people of the land who depend on nature for their lives and livelihood. As industrial disasters continue to spurt, the inaction of the government combined with the draft EIA 2020 is only going to further rob people of their lands and ruin the last of nature that we have left.

 

Related:

VECL consistently flouting environmental laws: Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti

Environmentalist decries continuous pollution of Daman Ganga river by Vapi industries

GPCB’s casual reply to action sought in view of dangerously very high COD level in groundwater

New sample suggests high pollution off Vadodara effluent channel, 'requires' action

 

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