Amid the pandemic and the lack of livelihood support, the communities belonging to Bhil and Bhilala tribes have found themselves in the middle of a water pollution crisis in Madhya Pradesh. Protests have been raging in the Mhow region of the state where polluted water could adversely affect over 50 densely populated villages in the region spreading as far as Dhar and Khargone.
At the end of June, the villagers had reported instances of blackening of water in Ajnar river, death of cattle and marine animals in the region, following which the water of the river was tested out by a lab in Thane, Maharashtra. The results confirmed that the water is unfit for consumption and is not potable.
Protests have been raging in the area as the tribal communities see their land and villages being used as dumping grounds for industrial waste and chemicals, which are impacting their lives and livelihoods. A recent protest gathering, which attracted crowds in thousands, was convened in the area on July 11.
However, no concrete action has been taken against the polluters. Instead, over 500 tribal participants have been reportedly booked by the Manpur police station. However, the police have categorically denied this and have not confirmed it to the tribal groups.
Speaking to NewsClick, activist Medha Patkar who was present at the gathering said, “Waste dumping in the tribal dominated areas is a question of their livelihood and animals. The water tested has found it has excessive quantities of dissolved ammonia, acids and nitrate that are way above normal level. This water is now flowing through the Narmada river as well. Owing to a strong movement in the region, the SDM had assured us that the land where the chemicals were dumped will be dug up, however, later the SDM himself was transferred.”
Tubewells, the river and tanks are all witnessing the presence of blackned water in the area. Activists claim that multiple norms have been flouted including the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, which was enacted in 1974 to provide for the prevention and control of water pollution, and for the maintaining or restoring of wholesomeness of water in the country. Another law that was allegedly violated is the Environment Protection Act of 1986, which authorises the government to protect and improve environmental quality, control and reduce pollution from all sources, and prohibits the setting and/or operation of any industrial facility on environmental grounds. The Solid Waste Management Rules 2016 also stipulate zero tolerance for throwing, burning, or burying of the solid waste generated on streets, open public spaces outside the generator’s premises, or in the drain, or water bodies.
Sushil and Chadan Rathod have been reportedly named as the accused in the case in a letter sent by Dhar based legislator and activist Dr. Hiralal Alawa. Speaking to NewsClick, he referred to his letter and stated, “We had written a letter and were told that three people have been arrested. The FIR’s have been registered against unknown persons, we do not have any information on the charges levelled against tribals.” As the police station has not reached out to them, they are demanding action against the accused for sheer negligence of the norms causing enormous pollution.
NewsClick reached out to the authorities at Manpur police station wherein constable Ram Solanki informed that “No action has been taken in the case as yet, neither on the tribal protestors nor on the accused for dumping of waste.” Moreover, he denied any cases being filed against the tribals.
The communities have been reiterating the issue of state apathy and the loss of tribal resources over negligence of norms while protection is given to industries with no action being against the accused. The community also remains agitated as barely 100 kilometres away in Khandwa, tribals were evicted by the forest department in the midst of the pandemic.