"The industrial area is gulping down water meant for us, leaving us thirsty"

People living in villages close to the Sandila Industrial Area, 55 kms from Lucknow, say the alcohol, sugar and milk factories are rampantly using groundwater, because of which they have to struggle for water every single day

Ranvijay SinghRanvijay Singh   23 Oct 2019 11:08 AM GMT

The industrial area is gulping down water meant for us, leaving us thirsty

"We are facing many problems due to the water crisis. We are still getting water because it has rained recently, but this will stop in a month or two. This is what has been happening for the past two years. The groundwater level has been going down ever since these companies were set up here," said Amit Kumar Yadav, 23.

Amit lives in Marufpur village in Uttar Pradesh's Hardoi district. The companies he is talking about are operational in Sandila Industrial Area, which is 55 kms from Uttar Pradesh's capital Lucknow. They primarily manufacture alcohol, cold drink and milk.

People living in villages close to this industrial area alleged that these companies are rampantly using groundwater because of which the level is going down. As a result of this, 10-15 villages in the vicinity are not getting water to drink.

In Uttar Pradesh, the groundwater level is going down at an alarming rate. People living in urban and rural areas are mining water both, systematically, and unsystematically for irrigation, drinking purpose and industrial use.

While the rate of groundwater consumption stood at 54% in 2007, in 2009 it went up to 72%. The consumption level went up to 73.6% in 2011 and 74% in 2013, respectively.

The water which these villagers drink turns yellow within half an hour.

"We have to dig deep to get water"

Som village falls in the Sandila Industrial area. When we reached Som village, we met Munshi Lal Gupta, 45. He said: "Earlier, we would get water at 30-40 feet. But three years back, when the cold drink unit was set up here, the situation worsened. Now, we have to dig as deep as 200-250 feet to get water."

According to a report by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) titled 'Groundwater yearbook 2017-18', between 2007 and 2017, the groundwater level of 637 wells in Uttar Pradesh was monitored. It was observed that 450 wells showed a decline in water level -- this comes to 71% of the total number of wells.

Our next stop was Marufpur village in Hardoi district. When we reached eighty-five-year-old Rashida Banoo's house, she was trying to fill water through the government tap that was outside her house. She said: "We have to struggle for water every day. Earlier, I used to fill water through this government tap. People would tell me that the water was really sweet. But now, from the past 3-4 years, both, the water level, and quality have gone down. The tap dried last summer. Now water trickles through it."

Rasool Baksh, who lives in the same village, said: "Things weren't this bad until two years back. We were getting water at 40 feet. But now, because of the cold-drink manufacturing company, the groundwater level has gone down. What can we do? The companies are gulping down water meant for us, leaving us thirsty."

Around 85% industrial areas in Uttar Pradesh are dependent on groundwater for their functioning. The cold drink company that Rasool is talking about has been granted permission to utilize 10.36 lakh cubic meter water. But the company has been recharging only 6.31 lakh cubic meter water. This information was provided by the Central Ground Water Board on August 1, 2018.

Villagers here have been complaining that the groundwater level has been going down ever since these companies were set up here.

The villagers have been complaining. They even have staged protests. They have given written complaints. The authorities have acted on some of the complaints, but the water level is still going down.

Ashok Bharti, a social worker, who works in Sandila, said: "We have complained many times, but we realized that we can't take on these big companies. They are not bothered about the common man. Even if we assume the water level is going down on its own, and the companies are not responsible but isn't it too much of a coincidence that the water level started going down only when these factories started operating. The authorities should think about this."

When we talked to Shivendra Shukla, deputy manager of Varun beverage, the company that the villagers were talking about, he said: "We are using less water than what is being permitted to us. We are also recharging the groundwater through water harvesting in some areas. In addition, we also send reports to the Central Ground Water board regularly."

When contacted, Ravikant Singh, a senior hydrogeologist working with the Uttar Pradesh Groundwater Department, said: "The New Water Act came into being on October 2. Uttar Pradesh is among the few states where there is a law in place pertaining to the use of groundwater. Now, the police commissioner and the district magistrate can act on the complaints."

"If the villagers are complaining, we will look into it. Earlier, we had checked if the industries are functioning as per the rules. We will form a new team and make enquires as per the New Water Act," said Pulkit Khare, district magistrate, Hardoi.

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