Today, the area is known to be one of the most polluted places in the city.

Residents of Hyderabads Jeedimetla industrial area gasp for life amidst toxic air and waterImage for representation
news Ground Report Wednesday, October 19, 2016 - 07:11

52-year-old Lakshmi Devi sits at her shop in Gampal Basti in Hyderabad's Jeedimetla area narrating the incidents of September 21.

"During the rains, the water was gushing fast through the nala, but that night it started rising. It soon entered all our homes and even my shop. That's the wall that broke, because of which the water entered the street," she points out. 

(The wall that the Nala breached, still remains broken)

"I had losses worth thousands of rupees. Everything on the ground and the first two shelves was washed away or spoiled. Now, I am building things back," she adds.

In September, during the heavy rains in Hyderabad, the nala, which is thick with chemicals from the Jeedimetla industrial area, overflowed along many points, as it made its way to join the Kukatpally nala that, in turn, converges at the Hussain Sagar.

This was the same nala that collected the toxic froth, which eventually flowed down the road near Liberty.

Read - Video: After Bengaluru, now lake in Hyderabad overflows with froth

"The water was thick, dark and smelly, and those who used it got rashes and itchy skin," Devi adds.

The local residents say that officials had visited them following the incident, making promises to ensure that such things would not recur. However, they were yet to pay them a second visit after the rains subsided.

(Garbage stacks up at many points along the Nala)

However, for the residents of Jeedimetla, this is no new phenomenon.

The Jeedimetla industrial area is home to hundreds of small scale industries, and larger chemical and pharmaceutical industries that have sprung up over decades.

At one time, it was considered one of the biggest industrial estates in Asia.

Today, the area is known to be one of the most polluted places in the city, with ground water unfit for drinking, unless it is properly purified.

Jeedimetla was declared as an industrial area in 1950, along with Patancheru and Katedan, prior to which it used to be agricultural land, due to its proximity to the Fox Sagar Lake and other water bodies.

The growth of Jeedimetla as an industrial hub, started around the same time that the Indian Drugs & Pharmaceuticals Ltd (IDPL) plant was allotted in the 1960s to Hyderabad under the then unified Andhra Pradesh government.

"Hundreds of small scale industries soon followed suit in the 1960s with little or no regard for environmental consequences, as the Pollution Control Board (PCB) itself was formed only in 1974. Chemical industries also started sprouting up as it was considered to be the outskirts of the city, at the time," says Purushotham Reddy, an environmentalist.

As one visits the area, an overwhelmingly pungent smell is the first thing that greets the visitor, and it stays with one throughout the area that spans many kilometers.

Today, it also houses many residential colonies along the Quthbullapur Nala, with residents constantly breathing in this air.

"You get used to it. I don't even smell it anymore. Only when people come from other areas, they ask us about it," says Asif, a 17-year-old manning his mother's shop while she takes a break.

"The drinking water is a bit muddy, but now the government is saying that they will provide us with water from the Godavari project, so hopefully things will get better," Asif adds, as he uncovers a full pot of water, revealing a layer of mud at the bottom.

"You wait for it to settle, drink from the top and throw away the last part," he says.

Officials at the local Hyderabad Metro Water Supply and Sewage Board (HMWSSB) however, downplay the issue.

"Of course, since it is an industrial area, there is slight pollution. We have installed a purification plant where we clean the water with Chlorine before supplying it for both industrial and residential purposes," says Khaiser Ahmed, who manages the local branch of the HMWSSB.

(The Chlorine tank)

For a few years now, many residents in the area, have complained of breathlessness but to no avail.

Reports add that in some areas including Bachupally, Malampet and Jeedimetla, residents cannot step out of their houses, due to the stench.

These residents also reportedly face health complications such as bronchitis, allergic asthma, acute skin diseases and even tuberculosis.

(Despite being laden with chemical effluents, the water flows through the area in open drains)

There have been many protests in the area and many residents have called for the shifting of the factories, as urbanisation has now seen many residential complexes in the area.

The government on its part, has also stated that it will shift these industries beyond the Outer Ring Road (ORR) of Hyderabad and ensure that they take steps to cut pollution.

In 2013, following a committee report, the then united Andhra Pradesh government, decided to either partly or fully shift the majority of the 13 industrial estates that fall within the ORR limits.

In July this year, the Telangana industries department brought up the move again, this time setting itself a time frame to move 1,068 polluting industries by the end of December 2017.

"We want to make Hyderabad a city sans industrial pollution, a city with zero industrial pollution. We are trying to relocate the 'red' and 'orange' industries from within outer ring road (ORR) to outside of the city," Urban Development Minister KT Rama Rao, who also holds the portfolios of Industries, Commerce and IT, asserted in August.

The minister went on to add:

"The relocation does not mean shifting of the pollution problem from Hyderabad to another area... When they shift to these clusters, they should be 100 per cent pollution-free. We also have a plan in a time-bound manner, along with Telangana State Industrial Infrastructure Corporation, to create common affluent treatment plants in each of these clusters even before these industries move out so that there is no pollution problem in new locations."

However, activists are unwilling to believe the promises of the government until they are actually enacted.

Over the last 26 years, Purushotham says, environmentalists in Hyderabad have got more than 40 orders from courts including the SC, with regard to the pollution from the industries in Hyderabad. However, a majority of them have reportedly not been implemented due to the lack of a special institution.

"After the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act in 1981, there were rules laid down by the government and after the more comprehensive Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 came into being, the Ministry of Environment and Forests started sending notices," says Purushotham Reddy.

"In 1987, even the Supreme Court became active, citing people's Right to Life to rescue people affected by pollution. However, the problem is that there is no special institution that ensures that these orders are implemented," Purushotham adds.

Even the PCB, has admitted that it can only give directives, which cannot be enforced.

"We need a law or an institution, to ensure that the people who do not implement these orders are punished. For now, the 'pharma capital' of the world, is just gradually poisoning its citizens that live in these areas," Purushotham adds.



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