Farmers on the edge as effluents contaminate water sources

Farmers on the edge as effluents contaminate water sources
Highlights

Even as the State government is considering shifting of chemical and pharma companies away from human habitations, the suffering of the villagers of Gaddapotharam in Jinnaram mandal knows no bounds- thanks to chemical and pharma companies which have come up in the past 30 years; water bodies and ground water in and around the village have become contaminated to irreversible proportions.

Jinnaram (Sangareddy): Even as the State government is considering shifting of chemical and pharma companies away from human habitations, the suffering of the villagers of Gaddapotharam in Jinnaram mandal knows no bounds- thanks to chemical and pharma companies which have come up in the past 30 years; water bodies and ground water in and around the village have become contaminated to irreversible proportions.

“It all started when Vishnu Chemicals started dumping all their effluents inside a kunta, contaminating the groundwater table of Gaddapotharam and Kishtaipally villages,” said Vishnu, brother-in-law of Gaddapotharam sarpanch. The Hans India had in the past published how chemical companies had sprouted around a major irrigation tank leaving their effluents into the tank which turned the lifeline of the village into a dead water body.

A year later, situation hasn’t changed as companies continue to dump toxic waste into the tank. Interestingly, tens of lakhs were spent under Mission Kakatiya to restore irrigation tanks in the two villages to increase their ayacut, at a time when the villagers are not even able to grow any crops in the villages.

“They said they would ensure storage of more water in the tank but they ended up reducing the height of the spillway by half-a-metre,” said Kishtaiah, a farmer, whose wet lands have become uncultivable due to industrial pollution, holding the poorly grown paddy crop in his hands.

In Kishtaipally, a hamlet under Gaddapotharam gram panchayat, there are only a few farmers who still own agricultural lands, as the rest of the farmers have sold their lands to companies. Today the situation is such that lemon yellow coloured water flows out of borewells. TDS testing done by villagers in the presence of The Hans India using a TDS measuring device revealed that contaminants were five times than normal limit of 500.

Companies setting up their manufacturing units in Gaddapotharam haven’t contributed in any way to providing employment to the villagers. Even those who have spent working as contract workers for decades are suffering from deadly ailments. Mangampet Ashok (52) is one such worker who developed skin ailment after working in a chemical company for more than a decade.

His leg has been amputated after the skin infection spread to his legs. Being the only breadwinner of his family, he is clueless about how to take care of his family now. He belongs to Mudiraj community and is landless.

He is pinning his hopes on BC Corporation to get a loan to setup a grocery store in the village. There are many people suffering from dangerous conditions like cancer, back pains, knee/joint pains and skin diseases in the village. Health camps are organized by companies but that hasn’t helped the villagers.

Every evening smoke is spewed by the companies polluting air and emitting obnoxious odor smell only to be inhaled by the villagers. As the entire groundwater table got contaminated, the villagers are getting water from an overhead tank located a few kilometres away through a pipeline.

Worst sufferers of the pollution are bovine animals. Yield from dairy in the village is very less and the cattle look weak and unhealthy. Though the entire population of 5000 plus people living under Gaddapotharam gram panchayat suffers from pollution, it is difficult to get somebody talking about it in the open.

“If anybody complains to officials or speaks with the media they will get calls from local politicians who pressurize them. They are not given ration and are punished in various ways. Some of them supply water tankers to the companies. So even they don’t talk against the companies,” says Srikanth, an activist who was allegedly assaulted by the Sarpanch’s brother and others for standing up against pollution and land grabbing in Gaddapotharam.

Interestingly, a fact-finding committee sent by Supreme Court in response to a complaint lodged by the villagers concluded saying there was no adverse effects of pollution on the village and that the villagers were getting enough compensation by the companies. Villagers have lost hopes on Pollution Control Board officials, as they say there is a clear nexus between officials and management of the companies.

The only ray of hope for them came in the form of Chief Minister KCR and IT and Industries Minister KTR who have announced that pharma and chemical companies would be relocated to a location away from human habitations.

By Vivek Bhoomi

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