Is sewage farm­ing safe?

Mad­hya Pradesh's or­der to de­stroy crops cul­ti­vated us­ing sewage has trig­gered a de­bate over the age old prac­tice of us­ing waste­water for ir­ri­ga­tion

Down to Earth - - IRRIGATION - SUSH­MITA SEN­GUPTA |

RKararia, Barkhera, ES­I­DENTS OF Pathani and Shah­pur vil­lages in Mad­hya Pradesh’s cap­i­tal dis­trict Bhopal will soon lose the veg­eta­bles they have been grow­ing.The loss will not be due to some dis­ease or un­timely rain.The plants will be de­stroyed by the gov­ern­ment be­cause sewage wa­ter was used to grow them.

On Jan­uary 19, the Mad­hya Pradesh Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Board (mppcb) ver­bally asked Bhopal’s ad­di­tional col­lec­tor Ak­shay Singh to get the crops re­moved in th­ese four vil­lages, declar­ing the drain wa­ter un­fit for ir­ri­ga­tion. Singh’s of­fice says sewage was be­ing used in 70 hectares (ha) in Bhopal, of which farm­ing on over 45 ha has been stopped till Jan­uary 2015.

Ex­perts say the de­ci­sion was wrong as a ban on sewage wa­ter for ir­ri­ga­tion in a wa­ter­starved coun­try like In­dia would do more harm than good. What is needed is a pe­ri­odic mon­i­tor­ing to en­sure that the sewage used does not have toxic el­e­ments or heavy met­als in high con­cen­tra­tions.

The de­ci­sion has farm­ers up in arms. Rahul Dhoot, dis­trict vice-pres­i­dent of Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, said Singh’s of­fice does not have any re­port to prove that sewage wa­ter is un­fit for ir­ri­ga­tion.

Ban­ning the use of sewage wa­ter for farm­ing in Mad­hya Pradesh started in May last year when,in re­sponse to a public in­ter­est pe­ti­tion filed by Sub­hash Chan­dra Pandey of Bhopal, the Na­tional Green Tri­bunal (ngt) or­dered that such plants should be de­stroyed. Pandey had iden­ti­fied six lo­ca­tion where sewage farm­ing was be­ing done and said that eat­ing such veg­eta­bles could be harm­ful.ngt passed an or­der to the agri­cul­ture depart­ment of the state ask­ing it to work with dis­trict col­lec­tors and stop farm­ers from sell­ing th­ese veg­eta­bles. It also asked the state’s hor­ti­cul­ture depart­ment to sub­mit a re­port on whether veg­eta­bles grown with sewage wa­ter were harm­ful. The re­port is not yet ready and ngt has fixed Fe­bru­ary 20 as the date of next hear­ing.

ngt had also asked mppcb to sub­mit a re­port on its view on sewage farm­ing in the state. Gur­want Joshi, chief chemist in the mon­i­tor­ing sec­tion of mppcb,who has been in­volved in the prepa­ra­tion of the re­port, said that in Septem­ber 2014 the board was asked by the state gov­ern­ment to

Farm­ers say they have been us­ing sewage for farm­ing for over 40 years in Mad­hya Pradesh but they have not heard of any health is­sue

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