Water lines laid alongside sewage pipes in colonies
Despite all the attention and concern, expressed nationally and internationally in the recent months, activists allege that the Madhya Pradesh government remains lackadaisical to the plight of victims and survivors of the Bhopal gas tragedy.
The State government's scheme for supplying clean drinking water to the 14 settlements of gas victims, in keeping with the Supreme Court orders of 2004, has come under criticism from the victims and several survivor organisations.
The reason: the pipelines for water supply have been laid alongside the existing sewage lines in the settlements.
In two such settlements visited by this correspondent — Blue Moon colony and Nawab Nagar — water lines were going through the same chamber that housed the sewage lines.
“Earlier we had to drink water contaminated by chemicals, now we have to drink water that stinks of sewage,” says Nazeer, a resident of Blue Moon colony.
Initially started in 2004 under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) with a budget of Rs.18 crore, the scheme is being implemented with a “blanket amount” of Rs. 50 crore allotted by the Group of Ministers to sort out “any drinking water-related problems of the affected colonies.”
The State government, however, claims that it is a project of massive proportions and technical glitches may arise and if they do, they will be sorted out.
“Supplying clean drinking water to 14 bastis is no small task and in such a huge project, technical glitches sometimes arise,” says S.R. Mohanti, Principal Secretary, Gas Relief and Rehabilitation department of Madhya Pradesh.
However, activists allege that the lines are so close to each other that a critical contamination of drinking water cannot be ruled out if there is seepage in either of them. Such an event has already occurred in the gas victims' widow colony in the past, where eight people died after drinking contaminated water.
“We are here to work for and with the people with the best of intentions and this problem is being sorted out as we speak.
“There are space constraints in the bastis and so it is difficult to observe standard separation rules for sewage and drinking water lines. But the bottom line is providing water to those people and we are doing it in the best possible way,” says Mr. Mohanti.