IT HAPPENS ONLY IN INDIA,
GREAT JOB MR. PARMAR
it is good to eat as many as vegetables and fruits (totally vegetarian), but my aurvedic doctor asked me to stop eating every...
Rajsamand, 194.6 thousand tonnes per year.
Water pollution the slurry causes is a lesser nuisance. The bigger one is air pollution. The slurry contains the following chemicals: loss on ignition (volatile matter from mineral heated to 1000 c; 43.46 per cent), silica (1.69 per cent), alumina (1.04 per cent), iron oxide (0.21 per cent), lime (49.07 per cent), magnesia (4.47 per cent), soda (less than 0.01 per cent) and potash (less than 0.01 per cent). It also contains carbon, from the diamond edges of blades. According to Vinod Agrawal, associate professor, department of geology, M L Sukhadia University, Udaipur, the presence of carbon even in minute quantities adversely impacts the slurry's binding properties. Dry slurry simply flies. "Moreover, its particles are very fine: 100-300 microns. Exposure to a cocktail of such fine particles leads to allergy and kidney stones," says Tez Razdan, a doctor based in Udaipur.
Senti's residents agree. "Four people died in our area because of allergy. From this one can gauge the extent of the menace," asserts Saxena. "It has become difficult to breathe even in the house," reveals Kesar Meena, a resident of Senti's Seghwa Housing Board Society. "Many are selling their houses. At least in other areas of the city, there is less amount of air pollution," says Sanju Sharma, another society resident. The society's park has also not been spared. "When they were dumping the slurry we protested. They said a plantation would come up. But nothing has been done," asserts Usha Lulani, a society resident.
Udaipur's marble cutting units generate 94 thousand tonnes of slurry per year. The city's air is choked. "It forms an envelope, leading to a greenhouse effect. Slurry particles also prevent cloud condensation. This is partly why we are not receiving enough rainfall," asserts Razdan
At present, the city's slurry is being dumped near Amberi, where most marble cutting units are located. "The choice of the site is wrong, as it is part of a catchment area. The water would get polluted," says Razdan. "The site is adjacent to a reserved forest. The slurry particles get deposited on plant stomata and hinder photosynthesis, affecting plant growth," asserts R K Garg, professor, department of botany, V B Rural Institute, Udaipur. Moreover, the slurry also accumulates in the soil and reduces its percolating capacity. Agarwal and his colleagues conducted experiments to determine the affects on plants; equal number of seeds were put in beds containing no slurry or various proportions of slurry. It was found that the slurry adversely affected the time of germination, intensity of germination as well as plant growth.
Delhi-based ngo Indian Environmental Society (ies) has set up a unit in Udaipur that uses the slurry to make bricks and tiles. A brick costs Rs 1.25; a tile (one feet by one feet) Rs 4. "These bricks are as good as conventional ones, which cost slightly less (Rs one). But given environmental and health benefits, the difference in cost should be of no consequence. Moreover, traditional bricks are made using soil; their manufacture is also quite polluting," says Garg, who is also ies' vice-president.
But "leave alone the masses, even the officials are not ready to buy our products, as we cannot bribe them," explains Garg, adding: "Even the marble cutting units are not willing. Ironically, they are not even ready to supply the slurry free of cost!" According to him, masons perceive them to be brittle. But tests conducted by the Central Building Research Institute, Roorkee, show the bricks are stronger than traditional ones, with a compressive strength 2.5 times greater. They are even heat, noise and fire resistant.
Otherwise, too, the slurry has uses: to make masonry cement, gypsum plaster-based boards and blocks, cellular concentre blocks, distemper and colour wash, conditioner for acidic soil and paving blocks. The Regional Research Laboratory (rrl), Bhopal, has used the slurry to make jute fibres and resin, also developing door panels out of it. Preliminary work of the Central Road Research Institute, New Delhi, suggests it could be used as road material.
So why isn't it being used? "Product durability is questionable. Why should we make use of slurry bricks when it is not cost-effective proposition?" asserts Abhay Kumar Singh, collector, Udaipur. The Udaipur Chamber of Commerce (ucc) conducted a study about slurry's uses. They found bricks were a viable proposition, but then never encouraged its members to use it. "Why should we make efforts to recycle the slurry? It should be the responsibility of the government," says Arvind Bhandari, head of the Marble Association Union, Chanderia, Chittaurgarh. Agrees K S Mogra, president of ucc. "Where are the laws to ensure that polluters pay? It is unjustified to assume industry will take measures to stop pollution, unless it is forced to do so," he says.
According to Agarwal, "Use of slurry bricks and tiles should be made compulsory in government buildings." He adds: "To cover up the difference in cost, the marble slurry brick manufacturer should be subsidised." A cess could be imposed on polluting units, used then as subsidy. The government should issue licenses only to those units that effectively deal with their waste.
Why are authorities allowing such unabated pollution? I asked Mahesh Inani, chairperson of Chittaurgarh municipal corporation. "The slurry dumping is beneficial, as the water in the mines stinks," he asserted. He knows, it seems: "I am very confident, as I too own a marble cutting unit."
If regulators themselves are polluters, there is no hope for the city. "The dumping will continue, for marble-cutting unit owners easily bribe officials. They also fund election campaigns. So who will stop them?" questions Saxena.
Authorities refuse to acknowledge the menace. Said Naveen Vyas, assistant environmental engineer, Rajasthan Pollution Control Board, Udaipur: "As per our norms, the slurry is not a pollutant. It's not causing any problem."
Couldn't the government develop proper sites, and not just dump slurry arbitrarily? Consider the site at Amberi. When I asked Udaipur's collector about dumping there, he said the place was no longer notified as a dumping site. But I had seen dumping going on there, so I asked him if it was being done illegally. Singh's reaction astounded me. He called up the president of the Marble Association of Udaipur for clarification. Sure enough, the latter denied any such activity.
Earmarking a site isn't enough -- pits have to be made and a filter mesh placed to prevent percolation; the site has to be maintained. "For this, Rs one crore is required in Amberi. If the industry contributes money, which agency will develop it? Money is not the problem. Commitment is," asserts Mogra.
In this way, each interest group contentedly passes the buck. Meanwhile, Rajasthan's marble-cutting units continue to pollute, unabashedly.