Narmada Shakti Dal Press Release
  10 August 2001
Save The Narmada, Save Humanity!

Narmada Shakti Dal opposes pollution of Narmada waters
200 women gherao Barwah police station all night

Narmada Shakti Dal
Jail Road, Mandleshwar
District Khargone, Madhya Pradesh
Tel: 07283-33162

Nearly two hundred women belonging to the Narmada Shakti Dal - the women's forum of the Narmada Bachao Andolan demonstrated all night on the 8th of August into the wee hours of the morning of the 9th at the Barwah Police station in District Khargone against the pollution of the waters of the river Narmada by the Kedia liquor distillery situated close by at Village Khodi. The gathered women who were led by Narmada Andolan activists Chittaroopa Palit and Urmila Patidar gheraoed the Barwah thana at 7.00 in the evening on the 8th and sat there till early yesterday morning. The women demanded that the police file a First Information Report against the Manager of the Kedia distillery responsible for discharge of the toxic effluents into the rivers that run into Narmada. They also demanded that release of effluents must immediately be stopped, that samples of the effluents must be examined in a forensic laboratory, and that criminal action must be taken against the officers of the Kedia company responsible for the spill.

The Narmada Shakti Dal also demanded that the liquor distillery near Barwah be immediately shut down, until the appropriate pollution control equipment and processes are not put into place.

The women of Villages Pathrad, Sulgaon and several others who had reached Village Gangatkhedi for a meeting of the Narmada Shakti Dal were absolutely stunned when fording the stream between Gangatkhedi and Botheli villages, they found that the waters were absolutely black and that fish were lying dead on both sides of the stream. On questioning the villagers, the women learnt that the waters had been polluted by effluent release by the Kedia factory several kms. upstream on the stream that very day. It may be noted that the toxic effluents released from time to time by the Kedia and Agarwal liquor factories threaten not only life and public health as well as the health of cattle in the villages downstream on the Narmada, but also result in the poisoning of lakhs of fish in the river, especially the fish stock, severely endangering the livelihoods of hundreds of Kewat-Kahar families. Moreover, the effluent release also threatens the health of the citizens of Indore who drink waters piped from the Narmada downstream of the toxic releases. It was in 1994, that excessive releases by the Barwah liquor factories caused severe health problems in Indore and forced the Mayor of Indore to take legal action. It is a measure of the economic and political clout of these factories that despite sustained local opposition to this pollution, effluent release has continued through the last many years.

The outraged women of the Narmada Shakti Dal then decided to go to the Barwah Police Station instead of going home. However as matters turned out, these women armed with samples of the blackish water and dead fish had to struggle all night just to get a First Information Report registered against the erring company. Nearly a hundred citizens of Barwah also gathered to give support to the women and also stayed on till very late. It was revealing that the Assistant Sub- Inspector of the thana refused to file a FIR even after the SDM,Barwah gave him instructions to do so. Finally at 2.00 a.m. in the morning, after night long slogan shouting, songs and spirited speeches by the women, the SDO (Police), Barwah, Shri Tiwari arrived from Khargone to Barwah at the instruction of Collector, Khargone, Ms. Alka Upadhayaya and the FIR was filed. The women of the Narmada Shakti Dal gave their evidence to the police that was sealed in their presence. They also compelled the administration to call the factory immediately and order the stoppage of any more effluent releases and to send a team of police at 3.00 a.m. to the polluted stream to collect fresh samples, along with the women ,which were then sealed in their presence. The officials promised to send the samples to the state Forensic lab, but the vigilant women also took their own samples for independent investigation.

Speaking at the police station, Urmila Patidar of Village Pathrad said that the Narmada river was the life force and the basis of life of millions of people, and any one daring to pollute the Narmada should be severely punished. She said that the task of the Narmada Bachao Andolan was not only to stop the destructive large dams on the Narmada but also to protect the forests, lands and waters of the entire valley. The Narmada Shakti Dal and the women of the valley would fight to their last breath to protect their Mother Narmada. She said that there is a conspiracy to change the ever-flowing river Narmada into a series of lakes of dirty water through the creation of large dams on the Narmada and through uncontrolled industrialization. This, she said , the women of the valley would never allow to happen.

Chittaroopa Palit, activist of the Andolan also warned that Madhya Pradesh has once endured but not overcome the Bhopal gas tragedy. She asked as to how many more ecological disasters do we want to create before we learn anything? She called on the government to act fearlessly against the erring industrialists and close down the polluting factories until the proper anti-pollution mechanisms are put into place.

The waters of the sacred Ganga and Yamuna rivers are no longer even potable. The writing is clear on the wall - that in any plan for the development of the Narmada valley, no polluting industry can be given permission to build near any river or any other public watercourse.

Dhani Bai Kahar
Urmila Patidar