Villagers fight a losing battle

  • 14/07/1993

THE PLIGHT of the people of Bichhri, whose groundwater was rendered unfit for consumption by the effluent discharge from Silver Chemicals Ltd, may have been forgotten in Udaipur, with the case moving at snail's pace through the courts. But the industrial threat to the area's groundwater has not receded.

Now, residents of villages such as Loyara, Do Rahaton ki Baori, Khaliyaon Ka Bhaga -- all located about 4 km from Udaipur on the road to Nathdwara -- allege that their groundwater, too, has been polluted by Perfect Thread Mills, a factory manufacturing polyester viscose and other blended yarns.

Jatajee, an old farmer with land close to the factory, contends, "Our groundwater has become unfit for drinking due to the effluents from the factory. The water tastes foul. We cannot even make tea with this water because the moment you add milk, it curdles." He also complained the water was stunting his crops and even the sturdy fodder, rajko, did not grow well any more.

Another Loyara farmer, Bhairajee, says when the villagers could not use the water anymore, they petitioned local officials and at their behest, the factory agreed to provide water in tankers and installed a tap outside the factory for the local people.

But V S Dabariya, vice president of Perfect Thread Mills, alleges the water was polluted by another factory, M-Tex, earlier known as Suman Synthetics and now closed. Asked why his factory agreed to provide water, he replies, "Purely on humanitarian grounds."

Says Rakesh Srivastava, Udaipur district magistrate: "There may be some truth in the villagers' allegations. We asked the PHED to give us a report. The report said though there was some pollution, the water was still potable. However, because complaints against Perfect Thread Mills and other industries like Shruti Synthetics and Kalpana Metals have persisted, we ordered the closure of the first two. But within two days they got a stay order from the court. There is not much that the local administration can do under the existing provisions."

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