Don’t use sewage to cultivate farms along Mumbai’s railway tracks: Bombay HC
The Bombay high court (HC) on Tuesday directed the railways to not use sewage water to grow vegetables on the many patches of land along railway tracks in the city.
The railways’ administration allows some of its employees to cultivate excess land owned by it — mostly to grow seasonal vegetables along tracks on Central, Western and harbour lines — and sell the produce to local markets across the city and the suburbs.
The division bench comprising chief justice Pradeep Nandrajog and justice Nitin Jamdar has also directed general managers to cancel licenses granted to those employees found using sewage water to grow these vegetables.
In 2014, Mera Bharat Samajik Sanstha, a non-profit organisation from Kharghar in Navi Mumbai, had approached the HC pleading for a ban on this practice of using untreated wastewater on rail farms.
The petitioner claimed that an NGO had taken random samples of vegetables grown on rail farms at Panvel and Juinagar in Navi Mumbai and on chemically analysing them, revealed the presence of heavy metals like zinc, cadmium, lead, cobalt and chromium beyond permissible limits. Besides, the soil used for farming was also found to be contaminated with industrial effluents and domestic waste, posing serious health hazards for those consuming the produce.
The petitioner urged the HC to direct the railway administration to stop the cultivation of vegetables on its excess land, and instead allow the employees to grow flowers on the land licensed to them.
The railway administration, however, opposed the plea and maintained that they have issued instructions to their employees to not use sewage water to cultivate on the farm tracts.
In view of the stand taken by the railway administration, the HC bench directed the general managers to ensure the policy is strictly adhered, failing which they should cancel the licences of the employees found using wastewater to cultivate the farmland.