Cowherds in a Gujarat district accuse a local dye manufacturer of dumping a poisonous and acidic substance, which resulted in the maiming and death of their cattle.
WHEN RUDA Gugha of Udauna village in the Chotila taluka of Surendranagar district "spotted a tanker parked on the dry (Mahanadi) river bed in the dead of the night" in March, little did he realise the havoc that the tanker was to wring in the region. The next day, cattle from the surrounding villages, perceiving what they thought to be water, got their feet burnt on the poisonous and acidic substance that had been dumped in the riverbed by the tanker.
More than 50 cattle suffered acid burns, which even a month later showed few signs of healing. Devayat Sardul, a cowherd of Dudheli village, contends about 10 bullocks died.
Cowherds of Chotila taluka point accusing fingers at Mardia Chemicals Ltd (MCL), a unit manufacturing dyes and dye-based intermediates in Sayala, which, as Gugha says, is the only factory in this barren area.
But MCL employee Harish Mehta (not his real name), who lives in Sorimbhada village, says that though MCL has an effluent treatment plant, it usually uses tankers to dispose off concentrated effluents at night. He contends that effluents had flowed out of the factory and contaminated the neighbouring fields last year. The farmers complained to officials at Gandhinagar, the state capital, that their crops were destroyed. Thereafter, says the employee, the effluents are carried out in tankers.
What he says is borne out by the rocks at a spot upstream of the Bandia Beli dam, which have become brittle because of this dumping. The rope attached to a bottle in which the alleged effluents were being collected was reduced to ashes.
Despite the resentment, there is little hope of the case being taken up, as even the local administration ignores the sporadic protests. The only hope now for the villagers is to "catch a effluent-laden tanker at the factory gate", says an activist attached to a well-known NGO. But considering that MCL is the biggest employer in the area, will the villagers dare to go against it so openly?
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