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AHMEDABAD

’Feeling good’ about polluted water?

RAHEEL DHATTIWALA

Saturday 10 April 2004, by DHATTIWALA*Raheel

AHMEDABAD: Blood-red groundwater oozing out next to a graveyard. No, this isn’t a ghost story. Horror story, yes, but of a different kind.

This is Vinzol, the 5,000-strong village which is a perpetual newsmaker for consistently being on the receiving end of dye-manufacturing units in the Vatva industrial area.

While the water here is blood-red in colour, the air carries a distinct stench of chemicals which becomes unbearable in the night when factories release smoke, the ground a dump yard of flyash and plastic sheets.

Incidentally, Vinzol has company in five other villages - Chausar, Ropda, Istolabad, Devdi, Lali - which surround it. The population of 1.5 lakh in these villages has been under the grip of a severe industrial pollution for the past several years.

We’ve had four bore-wells so far. All of them had to be sealed, as they would only yield red water. Now, we walk over one km everyday to fetch drinking water,” says Chimanlal Rathod, the sarpanch of Chausar village, as his counterpart in Devdi village claims to be drinking “reddish water” even today.

Skin diseases and the failure of crops (from 50 to as much as 80 per cent failure rate) are other perennial problems that plague the villagers.

We had gone on a protest strike in 1997 - a few of us were even imprisoned for it - but to no avail. Officials from the state and even central pollution department make perfunctory visits but changes are temporary,” says Vinzol’s Atul Patel, an active member of the villagers’ anti-pollution movement.

Apparently, even the dead cannot rest in peace here. The Indian National Full Gospel Church ’s graveyard which lies on the far end of Vinzol village, has its dead literally turning in their graves.

Chemical water flows like a river when you dig a grave here. So, our first job is to clear the effluent even before we insert the coffin,” says church member Gilbert Roche.

Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) had installed a device to measure air pollution (Respirable Dust Templer) once in November last year and recently in March this year to check RSPM levels.

We have issued closure notices to 14 defaulting units on March 31. By April 15, they will have to start following the norms else face closure. In a similar move, we closed 19 units during the last six months,” says Sanjiv Tyagi, Member Secretary, GPCB.

Severe action would be taken against units found dumping discharge into the Kharicut canal that passes through the villages, he adds.

P.S.

in Times of India, Friday, April 09, 2004.

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