Polepally farmers’ plight sees no end as pharma pollution destroys livelihood

HYDERABAD: While farmers from four villages in Yacharam mandal in Ranga Reddy district have decided to stage a 'maha padayatra' to protest the government's forcible acquisition of land for the Pharma City project, the plight of farmers in the Polepally Special Economic Zone (SEZ) affected by pollution caused by the pharma industry has been ignored as they struggle with land degradation, declining agricultural produce, and dying cattle.

The effluents discharged by pharmaceutical companies have had a direct impact on agricultural production, fishing and husbandry in Polepally and adjacent villages. Farmers and villagers in Polepally, Jadcherla mandal, Mahbubnagar district, have lost their livelihood due to the government's inability to curb industrial pollution, sources said.

Pollution of water and soil has resulted in low paddy yield in farmlands for many years. According to the most recent agriculture department assessment, the soil had become alkaline and contained high levels of zinc, carbon, and potassium. N. Ganesh Goud, a farmer who owns 10.5 acres of land, stated that effluents from the pharma industry were directly dumped in his farm, causing crop damage.

"Soil has been entirely deteriorated because of the effluents released over the last ten years," Goud told Deccan Chronicle. “I used to get forty quintals of paddy yield in one acre, but that has now been reduced to eight to ten quintals. Moreover, because my paddy is cultivated on polluted land, no one wants to buy it. I have suffered severe losses and also lost 35 livestock that perished after consuming polluted, toxic water from a nearby lake".

The problem appears to be compounded further by daily wage labourers demanding higher wages to work in contaminated farms in Polepally and adjacent villages, because they ran the risk of health hazards. Because of the high chemical content of the effluents, even groundwater had been polluted, and borewells had rusted, forcing villagers to purchase canned drinking water.

People are refusing to buy fish from the village's local water supply since the situation is so grave, the locals said. During the rainy season, companies discharge significant amounts of wastewater into the lake, worsening the situation.

Raghunandan Achary, a resident and a former BSNL employee, expressed anguish over the situation and said he had given up hope of receiving any help from the government officials, which had “turned a blind eye to their life-or-death scenario.”

“Water, land, soil, everything has been polluted in my village for more than ten years. My 10-acre land has been rendered useless because of the chemical pollution. Thousands of farmers, like me, have been enduring the brunt of the hazardous chemical waste discharged into our fields. We have met with the district collector, Pollution Control Board, and filed cases with the National Green Tribunal, but there seems to be no end to our battle,” Achary bemoaned.

It may be noted that the National Green Tribunal had levied a fine of `18.25 lakh on each of the 11 pharma companies found to be violating the norms in its order in 2021. The compensation was to be distributed to the affected farmers, but the PCB had failed to release the compensation amount to the affected farmers and failed to act against the pharma industry. PCB officials were unavailable for comment on the matter.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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