One man’s 14-year struggle to save a Bandi river from dying
Mahaveer Singh Sukarlai founded a community-based organisation to mobilise farmers to demand their right to a clean river.jaipur Updated: May 14, 2018 22:22 IST
The battle for the conservation of Bandi river has been a long and arduous one for the people of Pali. Since 2004, Mahaveer Singh Sukarlai has been at its forefront. Freshly out of college after completing masters in political science from Ajmer University in 2004, Sukarlai founded a community-based organisation to sensitise and mobilise farmers to demand their right to a clean river.
The organisation, Sri Kisan Paryavaran Sangharsh Samiti, which started with a handful of people, today has a formidable network comprising farmers from over 20 nearby villages.
“My father was a farmer and he used to tell us how he and my grandfather once grew a number of crops and vegetables on our fields here in Pali. I never saw that. I saw the polluted river and how it has destroyed the fertility of our land and made it barren,” said the 39-year-old Sukarlai, who is also a farmer.
Despite a number of orders given by the Jodhpur bench of the high court in the matter from 2004 to 2008, none of them has been complied with. In February 2008, Sukarlai mobilised hundreds of farmers who then agitated on Bandi river for 20 days. The agitation came to the attention of the then district collector, who ordered rotational operation of the industries to meet the capacity of the Common Effluent Treatment Plants (CETPs).
Sri Kisan Paryavaran Sangharsh Samiti filed a PIL in the high court in 2012. They had three demands. “Firstly, treated or untreated water from the textile units should not enter the river. Second, efforts must be made for the restoration of the river to its original state. And finally, farmers should be duly compensated for the loss of fertility of their lands. They can hardly grow anything anymore,” Sukarlai said.
The case was later transferred to the National Green Tribunal in 2014 and is still under process.
As a result of Sukarlai’s interventions, 200 textile units operating in non-industrial areas of Pali were shut down. The HC ordered for the volume of effluents discharged to come down to 12 million litres from 34 million litres per day. In October 2016, NGT ordered all the textile units of Pali to be shut for 10 months.
In November 2017, Sukarlai was awarded the Bhagirath Prayas Samman for his efforts to safeguard the Bandi river. But the father of two sons says his fight is still on.