Narmada Water Unfit for Organic Farming: Medha Patkar
Bhopal: Prominent social activist and Narmada Bachao Andolan founder Medha Patkar has alleged that the Narmada water is unfit for organic farming as officials deny certificates to cultivators citing the presence of toxic chemicals in the river.
“Madhya Pradesh (MP) chief minister (CM) Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who calls himself ‘Narmada Putra (son of Narmada) and has pledged to save the river, has failed to curb illegal sand mining in his own constituency Budhni,” Patkar alleged at an event titled ‘Narmada Paryavaran: Astha aur Astitv’ organised under the banner of Narmada Sanrakshan Nyas (NSN) at Bhopal School of Social Sciences on Sunday.
Former CM Digvijay Singh and his journalist-wife Amrita Rai are the president and the working president of NSN respectively.
Environmentalists Rajendra Chandrakant Ray, Subhas C Pandey and Rajkumar Sinha and litterateur Pankaj Subeer were part of the panel discussion during the event. Narmada is on the verge of dying, according to the experts, due to the unscientific construction of multiple dams, rampant illegal sand mining, releasing of toxic chemicals from factories and the shrinking catchment and forest areas.
Spread over 1,300 km, Narmada is the fifth-longest and overall longest west-flowing river in the country. This river, which also flows through some districts of Maharashtra, is considered the lifeline of MP and Gujarat. It rises from the Amarkantak Plateau, in Anuppur district of MP, and drains into the Arabian sea, west of Bharuch, Gujarat.
“Dozens of subsidiary rivers of Narmada have dried up owing to sand mining and the construction of dams for irrigation projects. More than 25 cities are dependent on Narmada for the supply of drinking water but in return, they dump chemicals and sewage into the river,” Patkar said adding, “the state government supplies the same polluted water to cities after treating it. We should return what we take from nature.”
Referring to the newly announced Narmada Expressway, which will be built along the river, Patkar said, “The chief minister plants a sapling everyday in a bid to promote plantation and inspire the new generation. But the proposed expressway will further reduce the catchment and forest areas of the river.” To save Narmada from meeting the fate of Saraswati River, which has gone dry, the noted environmentalist said that the catchment and forest areas should be free from illegal encroachment and illegal sand mining.
Highlighting the contamination of Narmada, which produces the Mahseer fish, Pandey said, “In 1956, when Madhya Pradesh became a state, Narmada had more than 60% of Mahseer and it was adopted as a state fish. Now, the river produces only 2% of Mahseer. The decline shows contamination of the river.” Though more than six crore saplings were planted by Chouhan in 2016, making it to the Guinness World Records for planting the highest number of trees in a day, “we hardly find any plant after five years. It’s time to act, not to show off”, Pandey added.
Sinha highlighted that more than 150 million litres per day (MLD) of contaminated water from factories, drains and hospitals is dumped into the river. The illegal sand mining syndicate paints the slogan ‘Narmade Har’ on its dumpers to avoid suspicion.
1,589 FAKE LAND REGISTRIES
At a joint press conference held at Digvijay Singh’s residence in Bhopal on Monday, Patkar alleged that 1,589 fake land registries were detected by a commission appointed by the High Court in connection with the rehabilitation of the people displaced by the Sardar Sarovar Dam project and demanded action against 186 brokers.
The Justice Shravan Shankar Jha Commission was appointed on August 21, 2008, to probe allegations of more than 3,000 fake land sale registries, corruption at rehabilitation sites, issuance of livelihood grants, allotment of plots for construction of houses in Alirajpur, Dhar, Khargone and Barwani districts. The dam, which aims to provide water for irrigation, factories and drinking, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his 67th birthday in 2018.
“In the seven-year tenure, the Commission heard 10,000 people and submitted a 900-page report in 2016 listing 1,590 fake registries furnished for the disbursal of the grant besides other irregularities in the construction work for the rehabilitation,” Patkar alleged and demanded action against those responsible for the irregularities.
Patkar alleged that land which didn’t exist was registered through fake documents and some plots were sold up to 87 times. “One person sold his family land 87 times and in some cases, smaller pieces of land were shown larger in the land registration document.”
According to Patkar, the report named 186 “brokers” who played a role in the fake registries besides several officials. “The Jha Commission mentioned in the report that all this happened due to the nexus between officials and brokers,” she said adding that the allotment of plots was changed repeatedly.
Patkar also alleged rampant corruption in the rehabilitation process. The report has been pending before the Assembly since July 2016 and was never discussed, she added.
Singh told reporters that he will take up the irregularities mentioned in the report with the court. “The Congress will also raise the issue in the Assembly and in the upcoming elections,” he added.
(With inputs from PTI)
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