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Nehru's Dream Shattered by Rihand's Poisonous Water

The dream of the first Prime Minister of the country, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, is being seen to be shattering. While inaugurating the Rihand Dam, He had said, "This region will become Switzerland of India." The area in the Vindhya Region, popularised as Urjanchal has not became Switzerland, but has been deteriorated. Lakhs of people of the region have became the victims of air and water pollution.
The water of Govind Ballabh Pant Sagar, spread in about 70 square miles, is becoming poisoned to such an extent that the fishes being consumed in the area are being imported from Andhra Pradesh. Amount of dangerous chemical elements in air are rising, resulting in the deteriorating condition of the tribal who are making their livelihood through lakh from the forest on one side and bone deformities due to fluoride have been generated among the people of the villages on the other side. Fly ash from the big factories generating power can damage the ecological balance in the coming times. But the District Collector of the region, Hiramani Singh Yadav is ignorant of the situation. He says that they have a department which keeps information on pollution, and it not much as per his information. Pandit Nehru saw a big dream of the power sector during his visit to the region, which has resulted in the making of Rihand Dam and for which a cement factory was also established. To make use of the electricity being generated, Nehru invited the Birla Group. The Group established Hindalco, which was given the electricity at much lower rates. Communist Party of India had also demonstrated against providing electricity at 1.75 paisa per unit to the Group and at prevailing market rates to the government cement factory. But now these cement factories such as Dala, Churk and Chunar have gone in the hands of private sector and playing with the environment in the blind race for profit.

Banwasi Seva Ashram established in this region in 1954 is working on education, health, kuteer udyog and animal rearing along with environment. Ragini Behan of Ashram said, "We made a laboratory for pollution testing many years ago. A study sponsored by Central Pollution Control Board was also conducted at the laboratory, which gave the information that the water from Govind Ballabh Pant Sagar has drastically been polluted because of the fly ash emanating from the power generating plants. The big companies are discharging the fly ash directly to the water. The fly ash ponds (small wells) built for them are much near to the water reservoirs. This exposes the people of their inclination towards environment. Fly ash is also being thrown to the nearby forests for a long time.

The big factories of the region include Renu Sagar Power Company, Hindalco Aluminium, three units of NTPC, Shaktinagar, Rihand Nagar and Vindhya Nagar. Along with that, Kanodia Chemicals generates thermal power for its own use in addition to its products. These factories contribute a lot to damage the environment in the region; three big companies, Essar, Reliance and Lanco are waiting for their turn to contribute towards the same. Deputy Manager (PR) of NTPC, Rahul Ghosh said," the way we take care of the environment, can not be done by the private sector." Journalist Shaharyar Khan said in Anpara that nobody is behind in damaging the environment. Vice President (construction) of Lanco Power Project, VK Rastogi said it clearly that they have got the blessings of Behan Ji. If there is government protection, they do not have to worry about.

The issues of health, pollution and displacement are regularly being erupted right after the making of the Rihand Dam. But every section is busy in making money out of the mining field. Politicians are making money at the cost of environment, police and administration is making it right from mining to coal. The involvement of media is also under question. Leave aside the reporters of the district; the popular journalists from the news world are also having their mining strips. These strips generate an income of about two to three lakhs of rupees every month. This is the reason behind a high crowd of correspondents in front of mining department in Sonbhadra.

According to the Jansatta correspondent from Sonbhadra, two dozen villages of Myorepur and Chopan blocks are under epidemic type of condition due to the pollution. Right from children to the older people of Rohania, Damar and Padhanraya villages, have gone handicapped because of the fluoride. Arms, legs and neck bones of the people have been deformed. People of Dala, Billi, Chopan and Obra are becoming the victims of respiratory diseases because of the presence of 200 crusher plants. Dr Arvind Singh says – people are becoming the victims of respiratory diseases to stomach problems due to air and water pollution in the area. The water of Govind Ballabh Pant Sagar is not drinkable, but the people do not have any other choice. There is a need to stop the discharge of fly ash from the power factories and fatal chemicals from the chemical factories to the reservoirs.

[Translated from the news item published in Hindi daily Jansatta on December 31, 2008]

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