Residents in Mangaluru protest against MRPL for allegedly polluting Phalguni river

Locals say that effluents, allegedly released by Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited into a nearby stormwater drain that leads to the Phalguni river, have contaminated their source of water.
Women and children among protesters against enviornmental pollution of River Phalguni in coastal Karnataka
Women and children among protesters against enviornmental pollution of River Phalguni in coastal Karnataka
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By Prithuma Monteiro

Residents and fishing communities near Jokatte in Mangaluru are once again up in arms over the alleged release of untreated effluents into the Phalguni river by Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Limited (MRPL). The issue first came to light as early as 2014, when black-ish deposits were noticed in the stormwater drain near the refinery. Now, distressed residents under the banner of Nagarika Horata Samithi on Friday, October 1, demanded that the effluents not be dumped into the drain anymore, as it has detrimental effects on their health and livelihood. Over 80 protesters, including residents and members of the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), held a banner protest, demanding justice. 

Tayyub, a resident and fisherman, said that the contaminated water causes severe health issues for the fishermen. “For small catches in shallow water such as crab, shellfish, and other small fish, fishermen are required to wade into the water. This has been the practice for generations. But, in the last few years, these fishermen are facing rashes and reddening of the skin, and they themselves have to foot the bill for treatment,” he said. 

Moreover, Tayyub added, the water there used to have a bounty of small catches. “It was sufficient for the locals for consumption and sustainable living. But due to the erratic dumping of the industrial waste, the fishes in the water have drastically reduced,” he said.

Locals say that the untreated effluents, allegedly released by the MRPL into a nearby stormwater drain which eventually leads to the Phalguni river, have adversely affected their source of water, along with the local biodiversity. 

Ravi Paul, a resident and business owner, said that the pollutants in the water are clearly visible to the naked eye. “There is a significant amount of black sludge that gets deposited on the banks as well as underwater. During low tide, the sludge is very much noticeable on the waterbed. This has caused severe disruptions to aquatic life there,” he said.

Speaking to TNM, Muneer Katipalla, the state President of the DYFI, said that the Pollution Control Board has not taken any action against this, despite several complaints. “We had raised this issue years ago when we noticed contaminated water from effluents discharged by the plant. We have been complaining about this issue since 2014. But the complaints have gone completely unheard. We are protesting so that at least now they can take action before it's too late,” he said. He further expressed concerns about the large-scale impact of the pollutants on the water bodies, which can cause devastation to the adjacent environments.

Earlier, TNM had reported how residents of Jokatte started their protest against pollutants and harmful effluents allegedly dumped by the MPRL into the Phalguni river. 

Muneer said that if the PCB refuses to take action even now, after so many years and so many complaints, the DYFI and residents will be forced to stage an indefinite protest against the matter.

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