Get us water

By Deepa Kozhisseri
Published: Tuesday 30 September 2008

people of Hebbagodi village in Anekal Taluk, Bangalore, are threatening to go on hunger strike if Biocon, a biotechnology firm, does not arrange for drinking water supply to the village.

Underground water in Hebbagodi and five surrounding villages is contaminated and the residents allege it is primarily because of Biocon's 13-hectare insulin plant at Hebbagodi. The gram panchayat, taluk panchayat and the zilla panchayat have passed resolutions for the closure of the Biocon plant.

However, the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (kspcb) did not find any flaw in Biocon's waste management. "They're not discharging effluents," said Sharath Chandra, chairperson, kspcb. The board did find groundwater contamination but attributed it to urbanization of Hebbagodi and industrial estates, Veerasandra and Bommasandra, surrounding the village.

Hebbagodi residents don't buy the argument. Said M Krishnappa who has built rooms for rent on his field: "My vegetable crops were failing as Biocon releases effluents into my field, which is behind the company wall." The state Department of Health and Family Welfare in 2007 found the water in Hebbagodi's open wells hard, alkaline, brackish and unfit for drinking.

The villagers are asking Biocon to intervene in getting them Cauvery water supplied in the city by the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Water Board (bwssb). Biocon Chairman Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw in May promised to take them to the chief minister but it did not happen. Company representative L Joseph said, "We are a zero-discharge plant but we have agreed to help the community get bwssb to supply water."

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