A RED dog laps up purple water from an
open gutter, while a yellow cow ambles
past. Dreams in technicolour? No ... just
one of the many everyday scenes in
Ankleshwar, Gujarat, Asia's largest
chemical industry zone and possibly
one of the most polluted. The acrid
smell of chemicals welcomes you to the
township, just 10 km from Bharuch, on
the national highway to Bombay.
Innumerable chimney stacks belch
smoke which smear the heavens.
The 1,605 ha Gujarat Industrial
Development Corporation's (GIM)
Industrial Estate is tbebeart of the town.
Set up in 1967, it is packed with 1,500 odd units. The Ankleshwar industries
Association (AIA) lists 220 chemical,
156 dyes and dye intermediates, 196
engineering, I I insecticide and pesticide, 69 pharmaceutical, 81 plastic, rubher and leather and 201 textile units,
among others, as its members.
The red dogs and the yellow cows,
needless to say, are the effluential - if
one can say so - by-products of the
mercilesslypolluting units. But now, the
people are not willing to take it lying
down. Some farmers have filed a case in
the Gujarat High Court (GHC) against
the polluting unit.
In September 1994, a team of the
Central Pollution Control Board (cpcii)
scientists, who visited Ankleshwar,
noted that the estate churns out noxious gases, 36,000 kilolitres of wastewater and 123 tonnes of hazardous
wastes daily. Solid wastes are indiscriminately dumped on adjacent lands.
Liquid wastes are discharged into open
gutters and Ultimately Mad their way to
the Narmada estuary some 25 km away.
A random sample check revealed that
most parameters of effluence exceeded
the permissible limits. The full extent of
the impacts are difficult to assess. P
Muralilarishna, assistant engineer at the
Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GpcB)
office at Bharuch, says villages within a
kin of Ankleshwar are affected. Ajit
Padival, a GHC advocate, holds, "Seventy
thousand people living in some 35 villages within a 10 km radius of
Ankleshwar have been affected."
Jayesh Patel, a sugarcane farmer,
owning 20.25 ha of land in Ankleshwar,
is incensed, "When the GiDc estate came
up, 12.15 Its of my land were acquired.
Now, they are not even sparing my
remaining lands." Acidic effluents have
altered the chemical structure of the soil
of 8.10 ha of his lands, ruining fertility.
Patel and another farmer have finally
knocked on the doors of the High
Court, seeking redressal.
A certificate issued by the Dim
Agricultural Office (DAo) on July
this year, says lands in Sass
Amratpura, Gadkhol, Chapra, IN
Pungaam and several other Vin"
around Ankleshwar have become ind
tile because of effluents. The dischm
has "polluted watercourses and irq
tion canals of the above villagm a&
ing fields, wells, human beings and a
mals", it says. A cpcB survey found d
wells along the earthen drains carryi
effluents have also been pollutl
Indeed, tubewells and handpumps
the uea produce red water.
Farmers complain of a change the
colour of wheat and maize grains, the ?
principal crops of the region. Say
Hasim Saigat, from Dadhal, a village
4 kin from Ankleshwar through
GiDc nullah (drain) carrying fo
black water flows, "We don't grow co
ton here anymore. But if we did it
would turn out red." A technicolour
nightmare, no less. Often, crops don't
flower at all.
In the neighbouring Hansot taluka,
Satish Patel, a former scientist at the
Tata Energy Research Institute, recalls
how polluted water from some
carrying effluents flooded vast grasslands
lands in 1994. "Cattle didn't eat
grass for the whole year," he says. Patel,
who owns a small shrimp farm'
Narmada estuary nearby, ;Mr
many fish species have disapparent
from the river. Children complain of
skin diseases, while even a few hour
spent in Ankleshwar, are enough to
make your eyes water.
Industry, however, brushes off all
accusations. Says Kamlesh Udani, man
aging director of Unique Pharmaceuti-
cal Labs and president, AtA,
problem is largely because the Gi
has not provided underground drainage." Gpca officials concur. But Giric,
regional manager in charge of
war, R D Naik, just clams up.
G C Murniu, Bharuch's collector, says
"Even though the GlDc has provided
underground drainage in 2
phase of me estate, only
Ow So of the 300 units have
In early July, Murnm organised
a sneeting between the AIA,
rot 2 were aske
d to cough up
13 bV1 each, towards deepen 9
g and widening of the Amla
creek Patel hopes that
prevent effluents from
pzfiowing into his fields.
It both Murmu and Patel
13owledge that this will not ON,
he the problems elsewhere.
The GPCB pleads helpless
According to Murali
uhna. effluents and emissions
But he, "If an industry doesn't have
kmbber (to treat its gaseous emis
pos), it simply switches off its reactors
I hearing of a possible sample collection visit. Or, they discharge their
kreated effluents at night."
There are hurdles galore before
defulters can be booked. The 1988
amendment to the Water Act of 1974,
k; not been adopted by the Gujarat
de government, B F Salonia, member
tretary, GPCB, explains, "We are,
us, not empowered to issue notices
I disconnect water and power supply.
It can only request the Gil)c and
Gujarat electricity board to do
needful." Officials like Salonia
el that what is needed is also what
impossible: controlling at the source
But the AIA is out to prove otherwise. "On its own initiative, the AJA in
1993 decided to set up a Common
luent Treatment Plant (CETP) at a
,t of Rs 2.5 crores," beams Udani.
is plant will handle 10 lakh litres a
P from 80-100 units - primarily
allscale ones and become operational
ra March, 1996. The industries
re set up a private company,
virotechnology Limited, to manage
CETP on a commercial basis. But as
iow, the cETP remains a vacant plot.
Meanwhile, the Ankleshwar
fironment Protection Society (AEPS),
up by the AIA as far back as 1986, has
nted between 3-4 lakh trees here.
s Udani, "Everyone has ignored the
ironment so far, but now our aware-
is increasing." For 2 years now, the
along with the Rotary Club's
Pollution Control Cell (Prc), - headed
by Ashok Panjwani, president of the
United Phosphorus Lid (UPL) - has
been patrolling the GH)c Estate.
Defaulters are fined Rs 5,000 for a first
offence, Rs 15,000 at the second and Its
25,000 at the third.
Most people, however, remain
unimpressed. Says B D Navale, a
plant operator in Glaxo Ltd, "If they
have planted so many trees, why
don't we see them?" Most workers and
villagers agree. Adds Jayesh Patel
about the UPL and Unique Pharmaceuticals, " Unki khud ki factory ka ganda
pani hamare yahan aata hai (polluted
water from their very factories floods
"Impossible," counters Panjwani.
"We have oor own FTP, our effluents
are neutral." And Udani defends
Unique Pharmaceuticals, "It has no
poflution at all because it is a formulation plant." And while industry and
officials trade charges, the estate ties
under a pall of fear and secrecy.
Workers warn the inquisitive: "Mar
dalenge (you'll be killed)."
Workers allege poor safety standards.
Chemicals are handled manually, carried in open buckets, without goggles,
gloves or overcoats. Atul Pipavad, a former employee of Armour Chemicals
Ltd, says he had once challenged his factory inspector to produce gloves and
goggles for him, offering to resign if
proved wrong, "He couldn't find any,"
Pipavad says. He was suspended in late
July, allegedly for his active role in the
Horror stories abound. "Two years
ago, a worker died due to toxic gas
exposure during a clean-up operation,"
says a worker secretively, "The postmortem claimed he died of snake bite."
Says another, "Last month, a worker's
body was found dumped in a gutter.
He had died in the factory." Udani
admits to slack safety measures. "There
is a lapse on the part of the industry
as far as training is concerned," he
says, "But because the workers are
uneducated, it takes a long time to
make them aware of the dangers in
handling some chemicals."
Haresh Shah, Chief Medical Officer
at the Smt Jayaben Mody Hospital in
Ankleshwar, denies having received
cases of exposure-related deaths. "I have
only noticed some cases of workers
developing chemical dermatitis, that
too, only in individuals with sensitive
skins." He denies that the hospital
receives significantly high cases of
lung disorders, cancer, skin or eye
diseases. Shah, who is a member of the
Pcc, pooh-poohs fears of pollution
related health problems: "The level of
pollution has decreased over the last 10
years. The industry is very conscious of
Meanwhile, the villagers await a
messiah. Says Patel, "We want someone
to guide us, to help us fight." A legal
battle is seen as a partial solution.
And closure orders from courts
only rake up the fear of joblessness.
Says Nilesh Parmar, a trade unionist,
"We want industry, but we want them
not to pollute.'