Abstract from Asia Times – A short commentary
Gujarat is economically one of the most successful states in India. But to what price? The following abstract from Asia Times gives an account on the the impact on environment and people.
A series of sprawling industrial estates stretching 400 kilometers from the busy city of Ahmedabad to Vapi, in western India, is the ”Golden Corridor”. Hundreds of small and medium factories manufacture chemicals, dyes, paints, fertilizer, plastics, pulp and paper. The wastes are exhausted untreated into the air and water, poisoning farmland for miles all around.
Yet the Gujarat government is pushing ahead with its infrastructure development plan, Vision 2010, to make the second most urbanized Indian state into a dream destination for business, ignoring its impact on people and the environment.
Through fragile mangroves a proposed pipeline will carry crude oil from Oman to central and north India. A major portion of all future oil imports will arrive through Gujarat’s ports. Already oil spills have affected vast stretches of mangrove forests in the Gulf of Kachchh.
”Vision 2010 is far from being a dream. It’s a nightmare,” laments Vijay Prakash Jani, of Janpath, an Ahmedabad-based organization working on environment and community mobilization issues through a network of NGOs in the state.
A majority of the one million workers are unorganized migrants from the poorer Indian states of Orissa, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, who are ”scared to raise issues of occupational health and safety”, points out Jagdish Patel, a worker. Patel, who works in a chemical unit in Nandesari, is the founder of the Vyavasaik Swasthya Suraksha Mandal or the Occupational Health and Safety Group in the city of Vadodara, a big industrial center in Gujarat. ”Not only do we suffer from pollution related health problems, there is always the threat of accidents when containers explode, pipes burst, and put our lives at stake,” says a poorly-paid and equipped worker in Ankleshwar, 340 kilometers north of India’s financial capital, Mumbai. India is one of the few countries still manufacturing the notorious family of chlorinate pesticides, many of which are banned in the industrialized north. Studies by Greenpeace show the effluents contain the most dangerous toxic chemicals known.
Most industries here are water intensive – Vision 2010 envisages a high dependence on surface water, primarily from the controversial Sardar Sarovar multi-purpose project on the Narmada river, which has been challenged in India’s Supreme Court. The anti-dam people’s movement, Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), estimates that industry will claim some one million acre feet of water, although the authorities say the dam is being built to slake the thirst of drought-prone Saurashtra and Kutchch. Says Shripad Dharmadhikari of the NBA: ”Industrialization in Gujarat is based on the availability of cheap resources. Tribal land was acquired at throwaway rates by the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation and re-sold to industrialists.” There is no record of how many thousands of people were uprooted, or adequately compensated, by the 170 large and small industrial estates that have sprung up in the Golden Corridor .
Vision 2010 is the government’s blue-print for industrial development. But at what cost to people’s livelihoods, health and the environment? (Inter Press Service)