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Published: Wednesday 31 May 2000

Villagers from Ankleshwar in Gujarat showed samples of contaminated well water -- tainted brownish yellow -- to the members of the committee appointed by the Supreme Court to examine hazardous waste disposal across the country. They also complained that effluent and solid waste dumping was contaminating their groundwater due to seepage and rendering their wells useless.

Prabhubhai Patel of Sarangpur village said that though the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) was well aware of the severe groundwater pollution, to date they have not supplied any information about the level of contamination to the villagers. Villagers also alleged that although official disposal sites have been identified, dumping continues unabated into the illegal sites. "Why don't you provide details of the water quality to the villagers? It is a statutory obligation under the Water Act," a committee member Claude Alvarez asked the GPCB.

Prior to this, the Ankleshwar Industries Association (AIA) had presented before the committee members several positive aspects of waste management in the region -- including the best disposal sites for solid waste in India, a common effluent treatment plant and a mobile laboratory for testing effluent quality. But following the complaints made by the local people the committee remained unconvinced and visited an illegal dumping ground near Sarangpur. M G K Menon, who heads the committee, pointed out that the waste in the illegal site looked like it had been deposited just a couple of days ago.

The GPCB was also pulled up on the issue of closure of polluting industries. While the board said that 180 industrial units had been shut down for violating pollution norms, the committee members maintained that given the number of unauthorised dumping sites the number should have been much higher.

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