Research & Relief Society, Meerut
River Kali East The Saga of Death & Towards Revival
Research & Relief Society, Meerut
River Kali East- A Saga of Death & Towards Revival Author: Nipun Kaushik Project Research Team: Gunjan Sharma, Sandeep Latiyan, Neeraj Kumar Cover Design: Animesh Kapoor ÂŠ Research & Relief Society, February 2010 Published by: Research & Relief Society, 1, Subhash Colony, Opposite Wonder Ford, Roorkee Road, Meerut - 250003 Ph: 91-121-6525408, Mob:91-9997177704 Telefax: 91-121-2578851 Email : firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.rarindia.org Designed & Printed by: R P Printers (Noida)
About Research & Relief Society : Research and Relief Society is a non-governmental organisation founded in 1998. It is a voluntary organisation dedicated to the service of the society since more than a decade now. It has been associated with various programs committed towards a better and sustainable society to live in. It strives at an over-all development of the region and thus has been engaged in activities with a focus on the development of rural and marginalised community. The society has taken various initiatives with an aim to create motivation towards education, promotion of organic farming, provision of safe and clean drinking water for all etc. We are a team of committed young souls working towards a better society to live in, with respect to the economy, environment, education etc. Our focus is on the emancipation of the rural and marginalised communities in the society. Thus we aim at empowering the community in itself in order to facilitate better living standards at both rural and semi urban societies who are in need. We are a family comprising of open minded individuals with the focus to create a better and sustainable society for one and all. We envisage expanding in the region through different programs already initiated and further envisaged and thus we invite associations from individuals, organisations, federations etc. which could be fruitful to the social development of the expanse.
1. An Insight into an Important Waterline of Western Uttar Pradesh- River Kali (East)
2. River Kali (East)- From Boon to Bane
3. River Kali (East) in Meerut
4. Impact of the River Pollution
5. Efforts by Research & Relief Society
6. Fundamental Human Rights at a Peril
7. What is envisaged to be done?
FOREWORD The report on man-made pollution at the River Kali (East) in Western Uttar Pradesh captures our attention towards a critical case of pollution that was by the same industries that contributes to the nationâ€™s economy to small or great extent. Research and Relief Society has sketched out the critical case of water pollution in the river Kali in the heart of India, with commendable research, analysis and proposed solutions. The River Kali has been a river that has unconditionally satiated all the needs of the communities and the flora and fauna along its banks. Today, it is an example of extreme levels of pollution that needs immediate action-oriented attention. The author explores the 360 degrees of the situation that includes the ecology, biodiversity, human existence, violation of human rights, negligence towards corporate social responsibility and passive attitude of the authorities and society at large. The author clearly describes the cause-and-effect of these scenarios, and accounts for the toxic chemical poisoning that can easily become a cause of widespread health hazard in the near future. This report also exposes the inadequacy and lack of proper rural education on health and hygiene. It is impressive to note the professional touch with which every metric and figure has been captured to show the real scenario and impact on human and animal communities, the economy and the social structure. The outline on the efforts undertaken by the Research and Relief Society serves as a practical inspiration for interested people and groups to join in the good work. This includes rural empowerment programs, community awareness programs, and water treatment plants, peaceful protest campaigns, free medical camps, and formal petition. There is also an educative note on the provisions in the government that strictly prohibits such violation of fundamental human rights. The Society also suggests proposed action plans for the near future to avert this impending man-made disaster. The meticulous ground work that was carried out, and the refined analysis after that, has been aptly framed in simple yet detailed language. This act of uncontrolled water pollution needs to be stopped at the earliest by active intervention, and harsh measures. Initiative need to be taken by all concerned directly and indirectly associated with public health and the environment, non-government organizations, the media and influential individuals who can give a stronger voice to the concerns of the people whose lives are directly affected by this nearly-irreversible pollution. The commendable work done by the Research and Relief Society, throws light on this snowballing natural crime, and it must be carried forward through active and immediate support of everyone who sees oneself as a global citizen belonging to the global community. After all, a proud country like India needs to fortify strong rural roots, in order to flaunt green urban leaves. Dr. P K Mehrotra Director Ministry of Water Resources Government of India
Preface India celebrating 60 years of being republic in 2010 signifies the presence of the Constitution for six decades now. Part III of the Constitution of India guarantees different fundamental rights to all the citizens of India. Right to Life ensured under Article 21 & Right to Equality enshrined under Article 14 of the Constitution are amongst the most important fundamental rights though a blatant violation of the same is witnessed in the localities that inhabit the banks of River Kali (East). The river, an important waterline of the Western Uttar Pradesh is now a liability for the citizens on its banks, proving to be a health hazard. River Kali (East), an important tributary of the River Ganga has become a perfect example of chronic pollution for which different agencies are to be held responsible. This report goes into the history of the river followed by a contrast being drawn between its past and the present condition. It further explains the responsible channels augmenting the pollution of the river and suggests a mechanism to prevent further disaster. The river pollution has a serious impact on the ecology and bio-diversity of the region as well as the human existence on the banks of the river being widely affected by the debacle. The impact is devastating as the population inhabiting the banks are mostly from the lower income group and since the pollution and its after effects have been responsible for deteriorating their health, they have been pushed into economic as well as social crisis. The Human Rights including the fundamental rights are at peril due to the unwarranted exploitation of the river at the hands of the callous activities of human beings. The poverty and illiteracy have not allowed the villagers to raise their voice to the government authorities who have turned a blind eye to the plight of the inhabitants on the bank of the river. Research & Relief Society has taken up the cause of The River Kali and also the residents of such localities. Thus this report is being created in order to reveal the quandary of these villagers. I take this humble opportunity to thank the Villagers of Dedwa in helping the organisation collect the data. I also thank the Project Research Team in helping me with the inputs, technical and demographic. It is a humble privilege to acknowledge the support extended by my parents and family to me throughout the writing of the report. In addition to this, I take the opportunity to thank my friends: Nitin Khare, Gokul Jain, Arka Sengupta, Animesh Kapoor, Arjun Dutta, Devashis Mukherjee and Gaurav Nath for reading the manuscript at different times and helping me edit it. In addition to this, special thanks to Animesh Kapoor for designing the cover and the content placement of the report. The report would give a platform for showcasing this monstrous problem to reach the masses and a concern can be raised for the river as well as for the lakhs of people residing around the catchment area of the river. Hoping to seek a massive participation and support by various agencies, that the pitiful condition of the river could be changed in the near future, I wish the readers a happy but sincere reading so as to motivate some positive action towards a cleaner and greener environment.
Message by Director, Research & Relief Society After growing up and living in Meerut for almost 35 long years and seeing the river meander its way through my city, and being a live spectator to how the mighty river fell, I used to feel that helping the river and alleviating the condition of the people living on her banks was my duty. When I started the Research and Relief Society eleven years back, I had a motive, a motive of helping out Mother Nature and reducing her pain wherever mankind had hurt her most. Man has inflicted injuries upon nature since time immemorial, but it has increased to humungous proportions in the recent past. The River Kali(East) used to be a boon to the cities of Meerut, Bulandshehar, Aligarh, Ghaziabad and Kannauj, as a source of freshwater, as a river which had the divine power to cure ailments like ‘Kali Khansi’, and most of all a place whose sanctity was next to the Ganges and Yamuna in the eyes of most people. But for the past two decades the River has faced more torture at the hands of the brutal mankind than anything else. Industrial wastes have been dumped into the river as if it is a sewer line, garbage flows freely in it like a compost field, fish have died, levels of toxic heavy metals like lead, iron, cadmium and chromium have skyrocketed in the river, people living nearby contracted deadly diseases like gastrointestinal cancers, neurological abnormalities and malformations and deformities became rampant, let alone ‘Kali Khansi’ people have stopped using the river water for their household needs now and are switching over to underground water sources now. And since the river is such an important tributary of Ganges it adds to the pollution there too. It has always been my wish to document the pain which the river has been going through and bring it to the notice of the general public and write about the plight of the fated villagers living in the catchment area of the river whose lives are almost doomed. This book elaborately describes how during the course of time the river was polluted, he has intricately charted out the entire path of the doom which the river is gradually approaching and has painstakingly described how the villagers are leading their lives in gloom and despair. I sincerely owe gratitude from the core of my heart to Nipun Kaushik for coming out with such a wonderful piece which am sure is definitely going to be a milestone in our endeavour to make this river a cleaner river and the world around a better place to live in. I also take this pleasure in thanking the Research Team including Gunjan Sharma, Sandeep Latiyan and Neeraj Kumar in always being a support for the research on the subject. They have also been actively involved with the activities of the organisation towards the betterment of the poor villagers in all ways. I hope through this book, to appeal to the masses to contribute to keep our water bodies cleaner and sustainable by avoiding to participate in polluting the fresh water bodies.
Naveen Pradhan Director, Research & Relief Society, Meerut
1 An Insight into an Important Waterline of Western Uttar PradeshRiver Kali (East) An important source of running water in Western Uttar Pradesh, River Kali (East) originating from Village Antwada, Muzaffarnagar; passes through many important cities of the Western Uttar Pradesh like Meerut, Bulandshehar, Aligarh, Ghaziabad and finally Kannauj where it meets River Ganga after covering a course of almost 300 kms. This is thus, as well a major tributary to the Holy River Ganga. The river had been a major source of water for domestic as well as irrigational purposes since ages unknown through the cities it passes till around two decades ago. The running water in the river course was also popular for being a cure for the dry cough (Kali Khasi) and thus called Kali, but at present the river justifies its name as the water flowing through the course of the river is nothing better than that of a sewer drain. It is completely black in colour and is a shame in the name of a fresh water source. The river in the past was also known as Nagin (the female snake) due to the kind of the course that it follows. It follows a very zigzag course which is pretty unique to this river. This is another reason why the river is named Kali as the nagin found in the region are normally black in colour. Shri Sukhpal Singh of Village Antwada proudly announces that his forefathers named the river Kali Nagin around a century ago and gradually became popular as only Kali. River Kali (East) today exhibits a perfect example of industrial pollution and violation of the minimum standards set legally to be followed for water to be drained into the fresh water source like a river. The river is accommodating over 100 industries throughout its course. Moreover another bane to this is in the form of domestic sewer lines falling into the river untreated. At present, the river water is having toxic chemicals which are harmful not only for consuming at home, for drinking but also for irrigation purposes. The river was an important asset to the region about two decades ago is now nothing but an obligation on the residents of the region affecting them socially and economically, proving to be a health hazard. The situation is nothing but a pity and needs serious and immediate attention. The river needs to be revived back to being usable for all different purposes as a fresh water source. For this humble and noble cause, the governmental and nongovernmental organisations have to work together involving the masses in order to bring about a difference.
2 River Kali (East) - From Boon to Bane The river passes through almost 1200 villages and sub-urban areas and was being used for various domestic purposes especially for irrigation throughout its course. Its water was considered to be good for irrigation and better suited to the crops than the ground water. This was due to certain minerals found in the region near to its source and all through its course. The water thus has been reported to be better suited for irrigation and drinking purposes than the underground water. Thus it worked towards conservation of ground water which is being exploited today at an unwarranted pace. Mr. Sunder Soni, a 64 year old man in Village Aurangabad located on the catchment of the river was reported saying, “ geus rks dHkh V;qcosy yxk;k gh ugh Fkk] dkyh dk ikuh gh ,d ne lkQ Fkk ;s rks dqN fiNys lkyks esa gkyr bruh [kjkc gks xbZ gS fd vc rks uhps ls Hkh ikuh xank gh vkrk gSA”(We never installed tubewells, the water of Kali was clean enough, it is only in the recent years that the situation has worsened and even the underground water is dirty.) Another specific use which the river water had because of the minerals found in the soil near its origin is of curing the Kali Khasi (dry cough). Its water was primarily suggested by the doctors and Vaidyas from faraway places as a cure for cough which was found untreated by medicines. It was also popular as a catalyst in the cure for other respiratory diseases like Bronchitis, Lung Infections and alike. Thus looking back twenty years down the line, the river water had medicinal qualities which were certainly a boon for the residents of the region. Shri Krishan Kumar S/o Late Shri Moolchand Sharma, also a popular vaidya of Lawar was quoted as saying “firkth rks blds ikuh ls nokbZ;ka cukrs Fks eSaus rks [kqn fdruh ckjh cksryks esa ikuh Hkj dj ykdj fn;k gS ysfdu vc rks ns[k dj rjl vkrk gSA“ (My father use to make his medicines using the water of River Kali, I have myself brought water from the river filling bottles, but now its pity to look at the same river.) The River Water was used for domestic purposes like even drinking as it was considered to be lashed with minerals. The ill cattle and livestock was particularly taken to the river to consume its water and it was a widespread belief of the villagers that the river cures a lot of diseases as it carries the water for the Holy River Ganges. The river being a tributary of the sacred Ganga, and its water so clean and considered blessed, the residents of the region lying on its catchment could relate to it being associated with Ganga and equated a lot of value to it and bathed in the river for good offerings. Its a pity to look at the river today. The turbidity of the river is so high that the base of the river which was well visible around two decades ago, could not be seen today even using the scientific instruments. Justifying its name “carrying the black water”, its not only unfit for any domestic usage but is also unfit for irrigational purposes or even for the animals. The numerous species of birds categorised as migratory and inhabiting the region particularly during winters were a common sight throughout the course of the river but with The Kali getting to exhibit a soulless body carrying just industrial waste its disdainful to note that the birds are not to be seen anywhere near the expanse of the river. In fact it has been reported in the past that the population of these bird species have also been affected by the consumption of river water. The amount of heavy metals present in the river water proved consumption to be nothing but fatal.
The graphic representation of different heavy metals gives a clear idea of how these metals have housed not only in the river but has also leeched to the underground aquifers and are a serious threat to the health of the people dependent on the underground water for their domestic and other uses. A detailed report is also attached 1 herein as an Annexure herein.
Lead Content in different water samplesD- Village Dedwa R- Rajvansh Vihar
A- Village Aurangabad K- River Kali
J- Jaibheem Nagar
All values in mg/l. The quantity of lead found in the samples is much above the allowed levels. Lead interferes with a variety of body processes and is toxic to many organs and tissues including the heart, bones, intestines, kidneys, and reproductive and nervous systems. It interferes with the development of the nervous system and is therefore particularly toxic to children, causing potentially permanent learning and behaviour disorders.
Chromium Content in different water samplesD- Village Dedwa
A- Village Aurangabad
R- Rajvansh Vihar
K- River Kali
J- Jaibheem Nagar
All values in mg/l. Chromium is a heavy metal whose presence in the drinking water can lead to some severe diseases and illnesses which can prove to be fatal. It affects different organs in the body and basically attacks the stomach and the tissues, thus leading to organ failures. 1
Annexure 1- Report by Dew Specialty Chemicals Limited. 6
Cadmium and its compounds are extremely toxic even in low concentrations, and will bioaccumulate in organisms and ecosystems. With heavy metals like cadmium present, the drinking water is nothing but slow poison.
Cadmium Content in different water samplesD- Village Dedwa
A- Village Aurangabad
R- Rajvansh Vihar
K- River Kali
J- Jaibheem Nagar
All values in mg/l.
Iron Content in different water samplesD- Village Dedwa
A- Village Aurangabad
R- Rajvansh Vihar
K- River Kali
J- Jaibheem Nagar
All values in mg/l. As the graph clearly shows that even iron is present in quantities much more than the allowable limits. The first indication of iron poisoning by ingestion is a pain in the stomach, as the stomach lining becomes ulcerated. This is accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The pain then abates for 24 hours as the iron passes deeper into the body and damages internal organs, particularly the brain and the liver, and metabolic acidosis develops. The body goes into shock and death from liver failure. The tests conducted by the Central Ground Water Board, Ministry of Water Resources, Union of India in the year 1999 reported presence of heavy metals in huge quantities in their report titled Chemical quality and pollution status of ground water in and around areas of Kali River (East), Uttar Pradesh and Pollution in Kali Nadi (East) and its environs in parts of Meerut and Ghaziabad Districts, Uttar Pradesh. This is a clear evidence of a debacle in the happening. These tests have been conducted at various places and samples collected from 7
marginable distances in order to check the over-all quality of the river instead of getting sabotaged by a particular event like a drain emptying into it. The quantity of heavy metals present exceed the limits set by Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and World Health Organisation (WHO) to unimaginable limits as shown by the graphs and are thus a grave threat to the ecology. The reports are not shocking at all as the colour and odour of the river indicates that such scientific tests were just a confirmation. This study sampled a limited range of heavy metal parameters. The presence of these metals, and their high level of exceeded levels, suggest that a wider range of toxic contaminants are likely to be present within the drinking water consumed by the residents of localities on the catchment of this river, and as such, the chemical composition of this drinking water is worthy of further scientific investigation. It becomes clearer with the heavy metals also present in the underground water being extracted through different sources in localities at the catchment of the river. It is clearly evident looking at the above report that the river water carries devastating amount of heavy metals, much above the allowable limits. It has clearly been established in the table below, about the ill-effects of these heavy metals on the human population. Though not put in measures, but such an exploit has certainly affected the ecology and biodiversity of the region to wondering scores as well.
Effect on Human Population
Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, poor appetite, or weight loss, affects nervous system and also the kidneys
Cause flu like symptoms including chills, fever, and muscle ache sometimes referred to as "the cadmium blues." It also leads to respiratory tract and kidney problems which can be fatal.
Gastroenteritis, shock, toxic nephritis, Perforation of nasal septum chronic exposure on chronic exposure
Promotion of range of cancers including Lead, Mercury, kidney, breast, testicular, liver, stomach
The following chapters would be discussing the health hazards in great detail when it would be illustrated with clear statistics that other than the scientific testing of the water, a corollary can also be drawn through the survey conducted on the health aspect of the residents of a village based on the catchment of the river. The presence of heavy metals in the river water is certainly taking a toll on the lives of the residents banking on the river. The river which was a boon for the region sometimes back has now become a bane due to the irresponsible human activities. It now happens to be a blot on the map of the Western Uttar Pradesh. It is a perfect example of unwarranted water pollution of a fresh water source.
3 River Kali (East) in Meerut The river covers a course of almost 48 Kms in Meerut, which is one of the most prominent districts of Western Uttar Pradesh. The river enters into the city accommodating a huge number of untreated wastes from various industries located in Muzaffarnagar. In addition to this, Meerut contributes to the pollution of the river through various augments which are discussed herein in detail. 1. Industries: Over 25 industries add up to the list enumerating the sources of pollution to the river Kali as reported by UP Pollution Control Board adding to the water of the river through discharge of their effluents. Environment (Protection) Rules 1986 governs the waste being diverted to a fresh water source specifying the standards to be maintained for the effluents to be discharged into a surface water body. It creates an onus on the industry to comply with the above said norms but the amount of pollution and exploitation the river Kali is facing recites a different story. Amount of heavy metals clearly indicates that the industrial effluents have failed to comply with the statutory necessities. Most of these industries either do not have a properly working treatment plant or else they do not have it at all. The resultant of this is that untreated water waste is directly drained into the river and thus polluting the river to great levels. It includes all kind of industries from sugar to paper, from distilleries to alcohol manufacturing units. The river has been exploited to the unwarranted limits. The prominent amongst the industries are Sri Ram Group of Industries which in itself comprises of various manufacturing units; United Spirits Ltd., Meerut Cantt.; Devpriya Group of Industries based in Saini Village, Meerut; Mawana Sugar Works Limited; UP State Sugar Corp. Ltd. (in Sakauti and Mohdinpur, both) drain untreated waste into the river along with many others. The kind of heavy metals found in the river and the similar metals also forming parts of the effluents from these industries clearly gives space to a corollary that the norms specified by various legislations in regards to the protection of environment are being violated blatantly. 2. Sewages: The catchment has inadequate sewage treatment facilities and so the Kali River (East) receives a large volume of untreated raw human excreta from thousands of major and minor habitations in the catchment. Numerous studies have shown human sewage to contain a wider range of heavy metal parameters. There are 6 major sewages in District Meerut which all empty out in the River Kali (East) ultimately. They carry all the domestic water waste of a population of over 16 lakh which inhabits the city and the suburban areas. The irony herein is that these waste water sewages which are maintained by the Municipal Corporation of 9
Meerut, also the governing authority have never taken the pain to install a sewage treatment plant at the mouth of it before it joins the river. A mechanism in this regards needs to be developed so as to prevent the pollution of the river to this grave extent. Because of these sewers adding up to the river water not only in Meerut but in other cities as well, the river itself does not look any better than a sewer and is a profound shame in the name of a fresh water source. 3. Slaughter Houses: This is an important aspect to augmenting the pollution of the River Kali (East). Meerut witnesses successful running of various slaughter houses and the waste water has no other fresh water source to be drained into and thus finds a safe haven in the River Kali. This is a matter of great concern because it carries with it good amount of blood and the chemicals being used for slaughter activities are dangerous to the river water. The water coming out of these consist of chemicals which are dangerous along with a good amount of bio-degradable products as well. Thus we suggest that a special mechanism or the effluent treatment plant best suited for such houses shall be installed at each of these centres so that the amount of pollution happening doesnt cross the set standards under the environmental legislations. 4. Pollution from Villages Even the domestic waste from the villages which is mostly non-biodegradable in nature is thrown into the water course because the villagers at present believe it to be dead and only a sewer. Thus they feel no shame in the same. The river also receives considerable volumes of agrochemicals, either as direct run-off from land, or via hydraulic continuity with underlying groundwater aquifers which have themselves been contaminated. Extensive scientific research has shown that chemical fertilisers also contain a range of heavy metals contaminants and that these contaminants are known to leach through soils to underlying groundwater aquifers, causing contamination of this important water resource. As already mentioned, that approximately 1200 villages and sub-urban areas are located on the catchment of River Kali (East). District Meerut and Muzaffarnagar itself accounts for over 55 of these villages. Thus if accounted for as a whole, these villages contribute on a major scale towards the pollution of the river. 5. Sand of River Bed being Picked regularly The past has witnessed that the sand from the river beds were picked for it being rich in alluvial levels and thus to be used sometimes as top layer of the agricultural field to increase its fertility. Though presently with the kind of pollution, the river is providing neither the water nor the sand from the river 10
bed is worth a productive use. However it has been regularly observed that the sand has been picked up from the bed of River Kali for construction purposes. This leaves the bed highly uneven, restricting the flow of the river. This restricted flow and the high chemical content in the river leads to heavy clotting of the water. This unwarranted clotting is a hazard in itself as it leads to the facilitation of the leaching of polluted water into the ground water aquifers. This kind of continuous leaching has led to the findings, suggesting presence of heavy metals in the ground water as well. In addition to this, due to heavy chemicals being introduced into the river water through the industrial water waste, the water clots have been formed at various places in the course of the river which amounts to water logging and thus immense leaching of the same polluted water into the underground water aquifers. This is a matter of serious concern as it is leading to the pollution of the ground water aquifers to great levels and thus leading to dirtier water being extracted for different usages.
The river which is meant to be a fresh water source is nothing but a major accommodation drain of the city presently. The odour and the colour which is felt crossing the river are as bad as a sewer. The pity is that the Government and Non Government Organisations have not been able to do much towards the river in the past two decades when the river has grown from a fresh water belt of the region to a dirty blot.
4 Impacts of the River Pollution The river accommodates approximately 1200 rural and suburban areas in its due course of almost 300 Kms. Meerut alone accounts for over 40 of them. This is the region under immediate and major impact of the pollution in the river. Because of the river flow and its speed being restricted by the added chemicals and heavy metals, the same reaches the ground water aquifers and thus leading to the same water being extracted through the hand pumps being used in the villages as the only source of drinking water and for other domestic usages. Moreover the region is also under a superior threat of air pollution due to the chemicals present in the river and flowing along with it. A case study of a particular village is being presented herein. The village Dedwa, in Block Daurala, Meerut located on the catchment of River Kali represents a perfect example of misery being faced by Lakhs of people living on the banks of River Kali.
Village Dedwa- on the banks of the death The village Dedwa, in Meerut district, located on the catchment area of the river is one of the most affected villages due to deterioration of River Kali located in the Meerut district. Villages like Saini, Aurangabad and a locality named Rajvansh Vihar are facing the same problems and thus this is certainly not a singular example but is just being presented here so as to create a picture of the condition being suffered due to the unwarranted callous activities being carried on, which are responsible for chronic pollution. It is one of the first villages of Meerut facing the banks of death. It is located in Block Daurala and consists of a population of over 4000 with the following statistics giving a clear picture. It consists of a total of 1200 families approximately.
The above mentioned records clearly are an indicator that the majority of the population is underprivileged and are highly based on agriculture or work as labourers in the local industries. The literacy rate being very low and the education still a distant dream for majority; the villagers were not able to bring their concern to the authorities. The efforts tried in the past have not been able to influence a conducive solution to this problem, the measure of which only the villagers could know. The few paved roads are in disrepair, while the poor quality housing reflects the lack of money available for construction and a lack of basic facilities provided by government bodies.
Impact on Health and Hygiene The population of Dedwa has been exhibiting a frightening rise in serious ailments and also an increased death rate during the past 2 decades. The present situation is saddening and is stated in the following paragraphs. The water tests of the samples from the village have failed at the national and international standards for safe drinking water due to contamination with severe amount of heavy metals and thus it is unfit for human as well as usage by animals. Heavy metals bio-accumulate in human tissues, leading to increased loading and therefore increased poisoning symptoms over time, with continued exposure. Heavy metals are known carcinogens, increasing the prevalence of a wide range of deadly cancers. They are also known to be endocrine disruptors, interfering with hormone production and functioning. The impact of endocrine disruption is to decrease fertility and increase reproductive disorders, while impacts are particularly damaging to children, where heavy metals poisoning results in impaired growth and development of foetus and child. Maturation to adulthood may also be impaired. A wide range of other symptoms are also seen resulting from toxic effects impairing the functioning of, and destroying, essential organs within the body, particularly the liver, kidneys and digestive system. It is note-worthy that approximately 80% of the population in the village is ill and is suffering from diseases which can be directly linked to the pollution being discussed herein of the River Kali. It is due to the restricted flow of the river that the river water which is extremely polluted and is consistent of various heavy metals is forced to leach into the ground water aquifers. The only source of water for domestic usage including drinking being the ground water is a bane for the people inhabiting the village as the water being extracted through the hand-pumps, tube-wells and other sources are polluted to the levels that it can guarantee being fatal if used for a considerable amount of time. It would not be a wonder that we see an epidemic happening in the near future. 80% demarcates a huge number and what is to be indicated herein is that the poor villagers forced to consume slow poison needs to be pulled out of the situation.
With 62 untimely deaths in the last 5 years, its a clear indication of an epidemic. It is a matter of serious concern. Shri. Rasheed Khan, a 70 year old man suffering from stomach cancer is counting days and says, â€œge rks iqjkus le; esa gh vPNs Fks de ls de lkQ ikuh rks Fkk ihus ds fy, vc rks vYykg fe;ka ls ;gh nqvk gS fd mBk ysa ;s nwf"kr ikuh rks ekSr dh pknj m<k gh pqdk gS gesa â€? (We were far better in the olden days, at least we had clean drinking water available, now I just pray to god to give me death formally, this dirty water has already killed me.)
It is wondering to note that the authorities are sleeping over a spreading epidemic. The following table presents an idea of the sufferings of the poor villagers.
The government has not even taken the pain to install a medical centre in the village and the villagers had to travel to nearby towns to get their medical checkups which again lead to a financial burden over the poverty struck villagers. With serious ailments even being a part of growth of children, the sustenance of future generations is questioned and it is almost certain that the next generation in line is going to suffer from genetic disorders and hormonal imbalances making it even more difficult to sustain. Most of the families depend on agriculture as their source of earning and subsistence; livestock are also domesticated as a support in the farms and as a source of milk in the houses. The exposure of dirty water coming out of the underground water sources has also had an adverse effect on the health of the livestock. It has even been reported that a negative diversion in the reproductive capabilities of the livestock has been witnessed. The life cycle being distorted, as numerous sudden and unexplained deaths among the animals, is surely a step towards a raging epidemic among them as well. The village is suffering due to what they have never contributed towards. The condition is pitiful and needs urgent attention. The water borne diseases or even the above mentioned diseases having their bases in the polluted water is a clear evident of the impact of the pollution of the river over the poor villagers. As already mentioned this is not a maiden example and can be extended to almost 60% of the villages located on the catchment of the river.
Financial Impact The poor villagers are getting poorer and the river water which has even affected their ground water is to be blamed. The expenditure on medical amenities is growing with each passing month and is amounting to eating up most of the income of the families in the village. Moreover as already mentioned in absence of the medical centre in the village, the ill inhabitants have to travel to nearby suburbs or Meerut City threatening the meagre income of the poor villagers. The surveys conducted by Research & Relief Society clearly establish that a family spends approximately Rs. 3500 and more in some cases, towards the medical expenses in a month. None of the families are left spared of this calamity. It is a pity to note that to meet these medical expenses the poor families have to cut their expenditure towards other essential necessities such as clothing, proper meals, schooling etc. With poverty stuck and additional expenditure on medical bills becoming an important liability, formal education remains a far-fetched dream for the children of the village as the children if not ill are looked at as additional hands to augment income of the family. This puts the children into the vicious cycle of illiteracy and poverty and no empowerment pushing it to the next generation as well. With an epidemic already spaced among the livestock, it has also led to affecting the financial conditions adversely. This is due to less efficiency and productivity of these animals in addition to the medical bills adding up to the expenditure of the families. Another reason for their diminishing income is that the majority of the population is dependent on agriculture. The ground water being affected by the pollution is also a source for the water being used for irrigation. Due to the presence of heavy metals in the water in the irrigation, it has very widely affected the yield of the crops. The crop yield has reduced in multiple scores and thus also affecting the income of the farmers. It is a bane for the villagers as on one hand the income from the agriculture is decreasing and on other hand the expenditure on the medical amenities is increasing, thus the sustenance is getting difficult for the poverty struck villagers with each passing day. In addition to this, with increasing medical bills and also lessening of agricultural yield which is the major source of income in the village, the villagers get into the peril of unregulated private money lenders who charge high rate of interest and pushing the poor community into further cycle of debts and thus further poverty. A viscous circle of economical crisis has trapped the poor inhabitants from all sides and before we witness farmers forced to commit suicide on the above mentioned grounds, the matter has to be taken up seriously and a positive action in this direction has become an utter necessity to protect the village.
Social Impact Not only is the diminishing income of the villagers, but their very fabric of society is being threatened as an impact of this misfortune. The social interaction of the village dwellers has been restricted to within their village as their relatives and society outside, fearing to suffer from the consequences of this calamity been forced not to interact. The worst part of the impact at the social level is that the marriages seem to be a rare possibility in this village. No family is ready to marry a daughter in the village as she would ultimately be suffering the plight being suffered by the country folk. In addition to this, who would take a girl as a bride from a village which is affected by an epidemic of various diseases?
Due to all this, a large number of the villagers are getting ready to migrate but face a wide spectrum of challenges as they plan to vacate the village. Firstly, they would just have to abandon the property owned by them (as who would buy land in such a village). In addition to this, with the medical expenses already being incurred, it would be difficult to sustain at a new place.
This gives them no option but to stay in the village in the midst of inhuman conditions without any external support. A wide array of violation of human rights is at hand in this village and to avoid any further blatant violations; some serious steps need to be taken towards emancipation of these villagers.
5 Efforts by Research and Relief Society The Research & Relief Society which is involved with an aim to create a better world for the underprivileged took up the task to bring to the notice the pitiful condition of the river. With its committed members, the Society started working towards a cleaner Kali and reviving it to its original scores. As it has already been discussed the villages, domestic sewages and industries have been the major contributors towards ending the life of the river. The Society has as a measure appealed to the industries towards draining their waste water only after passing it through the efficient effluent treatment plant. Convincing the Industries has always been a difficult task. The Society through its different efforts which shall be discussed herein in great details also has appealed to the local government authorities towards installing water treatment plants on all the sewages before being drained into the river. The major activity with which the Research and Relief Society has been involved in is reducing or rather aiming at no pollution from the villages. The villagers through their different activities have been exploiting the river in many ways. This included, the domestic waste water going into the river untreated; the sand being tilled from the river bed thus reducing the difference between the river and the ground water aquifer and hence facilitating the leaching and making it easier for the dirty water to recharge the ground water aquifers. The steps taken by the organisation are discussed herein in great details.
Kali Nadi Raksha Samitis formed The Research & Relief Society worked extensively towards empowering the villagers to save the river which was once a major source of water for their domestic as well as irrigational usage. Thus the Society brought together around 20 villages which are located on the catchment of the river in District Meerut by creating Kali Nadi Raksha Samitis in all these villages. The Samitis formed included 20-25 members from each of this village itself. These members were empowered within the village to work towards a better river and contribute in all ways towards its cleaner existence. A tree plantation drive had also been initiated by the Committees thus formed and has been able to plant over 250 trees on the banks of the river. This has certainly led to better water being recharged into the ground water aquifers as along with the trees, even the harvesting structure has been build along. Bringing these committees together, meetings are held, in which the problems and prospective solutions are discussed and further implemented in each of these villages. The major aim of this activity was to create awareness among these villagers. A movement in the form of the Clean Kali Campaign was initiated by the society which was well received by the villagers and the society received immense co-operation. This was to create sensitivity among the villagers and to stop immediate exploitation from amongst the villagers at least. Due to this activity, the domestic waste which was being drained from the villages has been stopped with immediate effect and is being diverted towards other channels. In some of the villages, due to the efforts of the society the villages have agreed upon installing the Plant of Reverse Osmosis in order to reuse the water. Thus in any circumstances, the waste water from the villages would not be drained into the river. In addition to this, the sand being collected up from the river bed has stopped and the villagers through the committees formed do not allow people to come from outside and do the same. Thus to a great extent, due to the 17
dedicated efforts of the Society and members of the Committees formed, the exploitation of the river has been stopped in this respect from the District Meerut. The leaching which was being facilitated by the over exploitation of the river bed is also prevented to certain levels and thus reducing the pollution of the ground water aquifer. In addition to this, due to the clotting of the heavy metals present in the river water, the flow of the river was restricted at various places. Now through the continuous efforts of the Committees formed, such clots are removed and the adding up of the heavy metals is prevented, leading to no new clots being formed. This also helps in less leaching of the river water into the ground water aquifers and facilitates a swift movement of the river water. Moreover, a Protest Campaign was also launched at the Collectorate involving all the villages in front of the District Magistrate and Commissioner of Meerut. Attendance of over 200 was marked at this Campaign and has certainly led to an impact on the Local Authorities. On 22nd March 2009, marking World Water Day an event was organised at the bank of the river in Village Saini. This was a formal launch of the Protection of the River Kali (East) Campaign and was marked with a presence of over 50 people from various spheres. Free Health Check Up Medical Camps have also been regularly organised on a regular basis in the localities affected by the pollution. This has certainly led to a financial support to the poverty struck villagers as now for small diseases they do not have to travel long distances and also can get medicines for free. A Letter informing the pitiful condition of the River was also submitted to the Chairman, Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board. This was well received and the Society has been promised full co-operation from the Board for its activities towards the protection of the river. Positive Action was also promised by the Chairman towards the Revival of the River. It is felt, that with all these efforts and reduction in the pollution of the river and the ground water aquifers, it would certainly lead to better living conditions of the villages located in the catchment of the River Kali. Through the dedicated and committed efforts of the Society and the Committees, a better tomorrow is envisaged for the people affected today.
6 Fundamental Human Rights at a Peril The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), also the gerund norm of International Conventions discussing Human Rights establishes Right to Safe and Clean Drinking Water as one of the fundamental Human Rights under Article 25 when it discusses the basic amenities to sustain as a human being. In furtherance to this General Comment No. 15 on the provisions of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states that the Right to safe drinking water is a right covered within Article 11 and 12 of the Covenant. In the introduction to their Comment, the Committee states that Water is a limited natural resource and public good, fundamental for life and health. The human right to water is indispensable for leading a healthy life in human dignity. It is a prerequisite to the realisation of all other human rights. The right to water is further defined in the following conditions in various International and National Legislations and describes an onus on the State to protect the following: 1. It must ensure that all people have physical access to water. This means that the facilities that give access to water must be within safe physical reach for all sections of the population, especially for vulnerable and marginalised groups. 2. It must ensure that all people have economic access to water. This implies that the cost of accessing water should be pegged at a level that would ensure that all people are able to gain access to water without having to forgo access to other basic needs. 3. Where water is provided, i.e. the right is guaranteed, they should be protected against undue infringement. The conditions prevalent in Village Dedwa or rather almost all the localities on the catchment of the river not having access to safe drinking water within physical reach is because the underground water has been polluted to unwarranted scores and in most such localities the source of domestic water is the hand-pumps and they give out water not fit for domestic usage. The industrial and domestic pollution of the river has led to the underground water to be dirty to demeaning levels and thus making it unfit for living usage. In addition to this the water which is being available has to qualify the following aspects of Human Rights Conventions in order to pass the tests laid down by these International Legislations. They are as follows: 1. Availability- As already defined availability of clean drinking water. 2. Accessibility- This puts a condition of the availability in a safe reach and also speaks of economic accessibility of the water. 3. Quality- The water thus available should be fit and qualify the physical and chemical qualities of the water. Furthermore, this right has been brought within the purview of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution that is under Right to Life under various judgements by the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India. Some of the legal backings to the same are laid in the following paragraphs: 1. In A.P. Pollution Control Board II v Prof. M.V. Naidu and Others, the Hon'ble Supreme Court stated that â€œThe right to access clean drinking water is fundamental to life and there is a duty on the state under Article 21 to provide clean drinking water to its citizens.â€? 19
2. In Subhash Kumar v. State of Bihar, AIR 1991 SC 420, the apex court held that “right to live is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the constitution and it includes the right of enjoyment of pollution free Water and air for full enjoyment of life. If anything endangers or impairs that quality of life in derogation of laws, a citizen has a right to have recourse to Article 32 of the constitution for removing the pollution of water or air which may be detrimental to the Quality of life” 3. In Narmada Bachao Andolan v. Union of India, (2000) 9 SCC 571), the Supreme Court held that right to water is a fundamental right under Article 21 of the constitution. 4. In M.C Mehta v. Kamalnath,(1997 (1) SCC 388), the apex court observed that the doctrine of public trust demands the sovereign to protect and regulate all environmental aspects of water and land. 5. The concept of right to “healthy environment” has been developed as part of the right to life under Article 21 of our Constitution. This concept was first articulated in the case of Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. Union of India, AIR 1984 SC 802 and then continued and expanded. The Supreme Court protected the right to clean water as part of the right to a healthy environment in a spate of water pollution cases coming before it from the early nineties onwards. 6. The court referred to Indias participation in the UNO water conference and held that the right to access to drinking water is fundamental to life and there is a duty on the State under Article 21 to provide clean drinking water to its citizens. The Supreme Court also referred to the Narmada Bachao Andolan v. Union of India(2000) 10 SCC 664, judgment where Kirpal, J. observed that “Water is the basic need for the survival of human beings and is part of the right to life and human rights as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India....and The right to healthy environment and to sustainable development are fundamental human rights implicit in the right to “life”. 7. In order to protect the water from pollution the parliament passes a legislation on the request of some states legislative assemblies. This legislation is called the water (Prevention and control of pollution) Act, 1974. The very objective of this Act is only prevention and control of water pollution and the maintaining or restoring of water. It also provides machinery to take appropriate action to achieve the objective of the legislation. In India, the Right to water has been protected as a fundamental human right by the Indian Supreme Court as part of the Right to Life guaranteed under Article 21 of the Indian constitution. The right to life has been expanded significantly over the last three decades to include the right to health and the right to a clean environment which can include the right to clean drinking water. If protection of rights mean not only the negative protection of violation of rights, but also positive protection, then I argue that the right to water can be extended not only to mean that people should not be denied access to water but also that in areas where no access to drinking water is provided by the State, the constitutional Right to Life guarantee would impose a duty on the State to positively provide water. Several of the explicit rights protected by international rights conventions and agreements, specifically those guaranteeing the rights to food, human health and development, cannot be attained or guaranteed without also guaranteeing access to basic clean water. In recent years, more explicit articulations of this view supporting the right to water have been made such as resolution of the UNO passed during the United Nations Water Conference in 1977 as under: “All people, whatever their stage of development and their social and economic conditions, have the right to have access to drinking water in quantum and of a quality equal to their basic needs.” In India, the constitutional right to access to clean drinking water can be drawn from the right to food, the right to clean environment and the right to health, all of which have been protected under the broad rubric of the Right to Life guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution. In addition to article 21, Article 39 (b) of the directive 20
principles of state policy (DPSP), which the Constitution declares to be nonjusticiable, recognizes the principle of equal access to the material resources of the community. Article 39 (b) mandates that the State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good. Thus it has been established that the Right to safe and clean drinking water is a fundamental right of every individual living in India under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and its violation which is clearly seen in the case of most of the localities on the catchment of River Kali (East). The State has acted irresponsibly in not taking care of the pollution standards of the river and thus we witness the present situation which is worth a pity, shame. It is high time to protect the rights of the poverty struck inhabitants of these villagers. Positive action from the masses and the government agencies is what is appealed herein.
7 What is envisaged to be done? The Research & Relief Society envisages a cleaner river in the coming times. The Society looks forward towards an Action Plan being launched by the Government to make it clean and creating it an asset to the region it passes from rather a liability spreading epidemics. The Protection Campaign launched by the Society in March 2009 would go on full swing in the coming years with support from various agencies. Presently the campaign is very active in District Meerut and Muzaffarnagar and we foresee extending it to other districts as well which has the river passing through them. We visualise including the industries and Municipality Corporations as major stake holders in the Campaign to reduce the pollution from their activities as well. The villagers once included as stakeholders have contributed majorly towards reducing pollution from their side. Once these agencies would be included as well, the river would be free from any incoming pollution and thus would lead to a cleaner river. The Research & Relief Society has been committed to the cause of the river but the efforts of the Society are restricted due to the limited support it could accommodate through voluntary activities of the members of the Society and the stakeholders in the program. Towards the same cause, the Research & Relief Society wishes to knock at the door of the Hobble Supreme Court of India filing a Public Interest Litigation under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution as what is being faced by the citizens of Village Dedwa amounts to violation of Article 21 that is Right to life guaranteed by the Constitution of India in many respects. Through this petition, we wish to represent the plight of the poor inhabitants of this village who have not been able to represent their cause even to the local authorities. The Society in the past has appealed this cause to the local authorities as well as the Pollution Regulatory Body in the state but to no use. Thus Supreme Court of India also the apex juridical body in the country seems to be the right forum to give the poor villagers relief from the plight they are suffering presently. A cleaner Kali is a far reached dream though the Research & Relief Society has been committed to the cause with its various activities bringing positive results. But the immediate concern is to end the plight of the people inhabiting the localities on the catchment of the river. Rehabilitation and Migration though sound lucrative, but are not a sustainable solution to the problem. Thus government and other agencies should initiate programs to create sustainable environment and living conditions for these people presently dwelling the banks of death.
Immediate Action for the Villages on the Bank of Death Research & Relief Society has been striving to make the living better for the poverty struck villagers but there are certain aspects on which immediate action is required to make their life slightly better and reduce their plight. First and foremost, their right to life is at stake with no provision for safe and clean drinking water. Thus making them available with clean drinking water has to be one of the major priorities. A water pipeline with an overhead tank at a considerable distance from the river needs to be installed. As already stated, the river pollution has had a grave impact on the health of the villagers and in absence of a Health Centre in the villages, it is only an additional obligation on the light purses of the poor villagers. Thus a Health Centre/ Dispensary needs to be installed immediately so as to provide them with basic health facilities at least inside their villages and need not go outside for the same. 22
The poor villagers have not been able to raise their voice to the appropriate authority and one of the major reasons for the same is low literacy rate in the villages. Thus efforts need to be taken to make the coming generation not only literate but educated and thus literacy should be on the forefront agenda when it comes to the development of these villages. The responsible government bodies should feel responsible for the cause and shall make provision to better and sustainable living.
Annexure 1 Laboratory Tests Report for the Samples from the Catchment area of River Kali (East)
Annexure 2 Letter Submitted to The District Magistrate by Research & Relief Society, Meerut
Annexure 3 Newspaper Clippings of the efforts of Research & Relief Society towards the cause
Published on Mar 6, 2010
A 300 km tributary to River Ganga is almost dead, the book takes you through the reasons of the pathetic condition of the river and what cou...