Ambedkar Nagar. A walk by the Tamsa river in Katehri block of the district is an adventure of the most hazardous kind. The stench of dead fish and the murky water tell a tale that the Pollution Control Board is refusing to hear. ‘A few months ago we called a meeting to discuss this issue in the village,’ says Awdhesh. He lives in Katariganj village which is not far from the river and is only one of the villages whose people and animals are paying a heavy price.
Ambedkar Nagar is part of the dense and visually fecund sugarcane belt of central Uttar Pradesh. However, invisible to many, the sugar mills that process this cane have quietly been releasing waste into the river.
’Fish have died. Animals that come to the river to drink water have fallen ill. The river has become a drain now. Karampur, Baijpur Semraghat villages have also been affected. But nothing is being done. The authorities aren’t even ready to believe that the mills are dumping dirty water into the river,’ says a disgruntled Awdhesh. Satish who lives in Karampur asks, ‘They say that no one is polluting the river. Then why are the fish dead? Why are animals ill? Why do people start itching if the river water is used? There has to be some explanation, right?’
Satish’s questions go unanswered, and in the meanwhile a new situation has cropped up – the unseasonal rains. ‘At least these months were better but now with the rain, the level of water in the river has risen and more animals are finding it the easiest source of drinking water,’ said a worried Awdhesh. The manager of the sugar mill Sudhir Singh predictably denied the allegations. ‘No dirty water is polluting the river. We have installed a filter which is as per the standards laid down by the Pollution Control Board. The water first passes the filter and only then is it released into the river.’
Mr. Ram Gopal, the Zonal Officer at the Ambedkar Nagar Pollution Control Board seemed aware and in control of the situation. ‘We carry out regular visits. Last month we received a complaint from someone. The issue was discussed with the District Magistrate and when the mill was inspected, we found that the purifier was working just fine.’ When people’s allegations about the diseases and pollution in the area, he added in an offhand way, ‘If people are alleging that the mill is responsible, we will look into the matter again.’
As the level of deadly water rises, the question is, what fatality will the administration wait for to take action?
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