While monsoon rains normally bring cheer to villagers as there is ample water for irrigation, the situation is quite different for villagers living in the vicinity of Pithampur industrial area.
Villagers are suffering from the adverse effects of industrial pollutants that have contaminated the groundwater in the area. The problem is so acute that residents of a number of villages have stopped drinking water directly from their wells. While some villagers have started using filters to purify water, others travel more than five km in search of drinking water.
“Water that flows into the nullah is mixed with chemicals. It has not only contaminated water in the well but also ruined soil productivity,” says Rajendra Patel, a farmer of village Chirakhan, which is adjacent to the industrial area.
A visit to the nearby Silothia village reveals the same story. Farmers of neighbouring villages like Dhannad and Bajrangpura, too have also stopped drinking water directly from their wells. While some villagers have taken to using filters to purify the water, residents of Chirakhan, travel more than five km in search of drinking water.
Villagers’ woes have increased after a treatment, storage and disposal plant for hazardous industrial waste was set up in Pithampur. Residents of Tarpura, adjacent to the Ramky Enviro Engineers’ hazardous waste unit, have been living in constant fear ever since it was decided that 350 tonne of toxic waste from the defunct Union Carbide plant in Bhopal will be incinerated at the facility.
The Pithampur industry association too blames the waste disposal facility for polluting water in the area. “The seepage of water from the facility is contaminating the ground water as the villages are located downhill.”
A huge waste dump of the municipal corporation is also located outside the facility, which is adding to the pollution,” said. Gautam Kothari, association president.
Efforts to contact Ramky officials proved futile. A number of villages located about 3 km from the Ramky facility attribute their woes to effluents discharged by units into a nullah that flows downhill from Pithampur.
“Most villagers have installed water-purifying units at their homes,” said Murarilal Patel, former sarpanch of Chirakhan.
The ground water drawn by borewells is used to water the fields, but even here the output has been affected - with the agricultural yield of vegetables and staple cereals dropping significantly, he said.
Villagers from Dhannad, about 2 km from Pithampur, have a similar story to tell. A century-old well from which villagers used to drink water from, is now being used only for washing and other domestic purposes.
When contacted, Alok Singhai, superintending engineer of the Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board at Pithampur, said: “We conduct checks regularly and have also taken action against a few units. We will investigate this fresh complaint.”