Almost one and a half years have passed since the New Delhi based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) released its first study in May 2006 on heavy metal contamination in the Bandi basin due to textile dyeing and printing industries in Pali city. This research was initiated in November 2005 on the request of Sri Kisan Paryavaran Sangarsh Samiti, a farmers group spear heading the fight against the surface and groundwater pollution by industries. The study found that pollution management system in Pali was in shambles with only 45 per cent of the effluents generated were tapped for treatment before disposal into the river. Even the effluent reaching the common effluent treatment plants (CETPs) was inadequately treated as they were badly designed and operated. The partially treated and untreated waste water was mixed and discharged in to the dry river and finally dammed 50 km downstream at Nehda leading to ground water contamination severely impacting livelihood and public health. The study outlined the need for a rethink in pollution management strategies so that the health and livelihood of thousands of villagers downstream Pali could be saved. The administration and the industry agreed that there were problems and assured of action.
In May 2007, CSE revisited the area to assess the water quality in the Bandi river basin preceding a good monsoon in 2006 and in the wake of the initiatives of the industry. What we found is that the industry and the government have, no doubt, put in a lot of efforts and invested a lot of money in the name of pollution control. Even the pollutioncess collected from individual industries has also been enhanced by twenty five rupees to Rs 90 per 100 kilo grams of raw cloth compared to 2005-2006, to fund for running of CETPs. Our water quality assessment detected that all these hardware investment shave once again failed to clean up the river, which is a seasonal drain. And most importantly, there is no reprieve for the farmers. They still continue to fight the system that has dirtied its environs demanding clean water and to regain their right to cultivate.
Pali’s pollution, and the farmer’s protest cannot be ignored forever. The situation needs to change, as it is a public health issue and most importantly an issue of the very survival of thousands of villagers. And we need to act very fast. We must remember that money is not the answer, we need out of the box solutions.