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
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