‘Golden Corridor’ of Gujarat: Who Bears the Cost?

Asthma,cancers, infertility and related problems, corrosion of fingers, toes and perforation of the nasal septum (the wall separating the nostrils), skin irritation and other related health problems are the fate of hundreds of thousands of people, both workers and local populations living within Gujarat’s industrial belt, also known as its “golden corridor”.

The unbriddled expansion of industry in this belt that stretches from Vapi in Valsad district to Nadesari in Varodara in complete violation of environmental controls and norms is the subject matter of a recent investigation conducted by the Indian People’s Tribunal that released its report last month. This 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 inquiry was headed by Justice Suresh, retired High Court judge, assisted by a panel of experts: environmental lawyers, community health specialists, occupational health specialists and scientists.

The eleven–member team visited various areas in the Corridor to examine the effects of indiscriminate industrialisation and the resultant pollution of air, water and land by noxious gases, toxic chemical effluents and other hazardous substances, which have both destroyed the livelihood sources of the local population but have also posed a grave threat to their health and lives. The local population in all the industrialised areas has recorded a loss in livelihood in terms of the loss in agricultural and horticultural produce and in fish stocks, especially in the inland water bodies.

In addition, the IPT also inquired into the occupational health and safety of workers in some specific industries where blatant violations of safety norms have caused serious damage to the workers’ health.

Gujarat has rolled out the red carpet for industrial investment with little or no consideration for environmental norms.
The report, documents how Proper Environmental Impact Assessments were not carried out, the hazardous solid waste and toxic effluents that are spewed out are not being monitored neither is the disposal of such waste given any attention. At most places, the report states, there is no pollution control equipment and whatever efforts have been made to provide for the control of pollution have been half-hearted and ineffective. Moreover, no consideration was given to the fact that the industrial estates were dangerously close to human settlements. The IPT team observed several instances of blatant violations.

For instance, 50 lakh metric tonnes of chalk, loaded with heavy metals, was found lying illegally in a village without any impervious layer to prevent its seepage into groundwater sources and soil. In the monsoons of 1997 and 1998, this chalk hill slid and gushed into the several houses of the village.

In another instance, the Effluent Channel Project carrying effluents of nearly 150 industries, running 56 kms in length and passing through 24 villages is used as irrigation water due to an acute shortage has resulted in the spread of heavy metal contamination of the food chain throughout the 24 villages.An overwhelming 61 per cent of the factory units in Ankleshwar alone were found by the investigators to have “unsatisfactory working conditions” as defined under the Factories Act, 1948. Thus, the “potential of a major environmental accident endangering the lives of thousands of workers and the general public residing in the vicinity is hanging like a Damocles sword over the entire Corridor.” The Indian People’s Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights (IPT) was launched on June 5, 1993 at a National Conference on Human Rights, Environment and the Law held in Bangalore. The mandate of the IPT is to highlight environmental and human rights violations, both by the state and private parties, and give voice to the struggles of grass root organisations and affected communities. The IPT endeavours to place before the public and the authorities a factual picture of the ground realities, based on objective investigation by experts.

Archived from Communalism Combat, January 2000. Year 7  No, 55, Human Rights 1



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