Unholy flows the Ganga
- Unholy flows the Ganga
50,000 people in 20 villages alongside the river in firing line of
skin and assorted diseases as tanneries flush untreated chromium waste
into river, agricultural fields
Rao Jaswant Singh
Kanpur, April 30: Every third person here suffers from skin disease.
One in every 25-30 villager has leprosy.
The chromium content in soil and water of these villages on the bank
of the Ganga is so high that vegetable and fruits are poisonous.
Even milk from the cattle is not fit for consumption human or otherwise.
So who makes the "living hell" villages in and around the Jajmau
fertile? According to social activists and the villagers, 310
tanneries in the area that have failed to install primary effluent
plants and thereby flushing chemical waste directly into the Ganga,
or the village fields are primarily responsible.
Sources said more than 200 of the 310 tanneries use chromium sulfate
and other salts of chromium to tan leather, before letting the
effluent drain into the river. In fact, they added, some even pump the
chrome waste into the ground.
Nand Kishore, 25, of Motipur village told Newsline that five out of
eight members in his family suffers from skin disease and "all of us
suffer from stomach disorders."
"Yahan rehne ki saza mil rahi hai, hum logon ko (we're paying the
price of living here)," said Kishore, constantly itching his feet. "Ek
raat yahan bita ke dekho, sab samajh jaoge."
Paras Ram, 45, of Sheikhpur said apprehensive of catching some skin
disease, people from other villages have deleted his village from
their itenerary: "They are not even ready to give their girls in
marrige." Life becomes a touch sadder, and tougher, he said, when all
relatives and friends desert you.
Kamta Prasad, 60, said agricultural produce in the areas "affected
areas" like Shiekhpur, Motipur, Atwaan, Jana and 15 or so other
villages has come down one-fourth, while medical expenses have
skyrocketted at the same time. "There are no medical facilities in the
village, so we have little option but go to the city for treatment,"
The worse were the tyounger lot, as Newsline found some of them
including Anshu (12), Ragini Kumari (7) and Rohit Yadav (10) not
even aware that the water they consume was slow poison.
Rakesh Jaiswal of Eco Friends, an organisation working to make Ganga a
pollution-free river, said the number of tanneries has doubled since
the mid 1990s from 150 to 170 back then, to over 300 at present. But
the government, he said, has failed to upgrade waste treatment
facilities, "and we are talking here of an affected populace of about
He said 15 tanneries were issued closure notices for not adheriing to
pollution control norms, but most of them were operating in an
unauthorised manner, while as many as 83 tanneries still function
without installing chromium recovery plants within their premises.
According to Jaiswal, agricultural produce, water and milk from the
affected villages is unfit for consumption. "The chromium in their
water and food has led to rashes, boils, wounds and allergy...their
nails have decayed and turned black; and most of them suffer from
A recent IIT-Kanpur study on chromium contents in the effluent from
tanneries and groundwater found the chromium content have reached an
alarming level. Vinod Tare from IIT-K's Environmental Engineering
department warned that the situation could soon be out of control. He
advocated immediate sealing of tanneries not adhering to pollution norms.
Regarding the recent closure notices to 15 units for not adhering to
pollution control measures, a UP Pollution Control Board official
said, "strict legal action would be initiated against them if they are
still functioning without adopting proper norms."
Meanwhile, Shahid Hussain Mohammed, the general secretary of Jajmau
Tannery Association, passed the buck on the official apathy. He told
Newsline that government-operated pumping stations were out of order,
and "if surprise checks are conducted, it would be found that the pump
operators are flushing untreated water into the Ganga".
Checks and balances aside, only the villagers in Jajmau area on the
banks of the holy river cry foul. Every day.