In a bid to intensify its campaign to destroy vegetables irrigated with toxic water on banks of Khan nullah, the administration has banned cultivation of vegetables on the side of nullahs under Section 144 of CrPC. The ban is expected to give teeth to the drive and now people who violate the ban would be booked under Section 188 of IPC.
A formal order has been issued in this regard, said additional district magistrate, Alok Singh. "The collector has empowered municipal authorities, the food and the health departments to destroy all vegetables grown along the side of the nullahs."
Meanwhile, the administration continued its drive against toxic vegetables that had started on July 2 and uprooted vegetables from around five acres of land in the Bhagirathpura area on Wednesday. Officials of the district administration and Indore Municipal Corporation started the operation on Wednesday morning and, with the help of porklane machines, uprooted the vegetables. Be it ladyfinger, the stout brinjal, the cool cucumber or even the humble sponge gourd or 'gilki' all were uprooted and crushed under the wheels.
The people who grow these vegetables had got wind of the likely action and did not come in front of the officials. SDM D Nagendra who was present at the spot said, "None of the people who grow these vegetables came forward to protest."
The SDM said at present no action is being taken against the people who are growing these vegetables. "First we want to give them a fair warning and if they persist then we will take action against them," he said.
Agriculture scientist, Dr HN Pandey, agrees that action should not be immediately taken against those growing the vegetables. "People have been growing crops along rivers or water sources since ages. At present, there is uncontrolled pollution everywhere. People who grow vegetables along nullahs cannot be blamed because it is municipal corporation's responsibility to treat wastewater and prevent it from flowing into water bodies. Collectively, society as a whole is responsible for the pollution."
The drive continued for over three hours. The porklane machine first uprooted the vegetables from one bank, then crossed the nullah and then continued the work on the other side.
According to ADM Alok Singh, vegetables are grown on around 250 acres of land running by the side of the nullahs which contain toxic water. Most of it is in Pardeshipura-Bhagirathpura area right up to Banghar in a 10 kilometre stretch running on either side of the Khan nullah. The drive will continue in the coming days also.
However, people of Indore would have continued consuming these vegetables had it not been for the May 28 order of National Green Tribunal, Central Zonal bench, Bhopal, which directed the secretary, agriculture, MP government, to instruct all district collectors to identity and destroy vegetables grown from sewage water.
ADM Singh said apart from the green tribunal order, they had also collected samples of vegetables and nullah water, after the initial drive that took place on July 2. "We found that both the water and vegetables contain arsenic, lead and other heavy metals, apart from deadly pathogens. Such elements are very harmful for humans and will affect public health," Singh said.