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Oil leak from MRPL affects farms

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Causing concern: The surface of the water in the Atturkodi area is covered with a film of oil.
Causing concern: The surface of the water in the Atturkodi area is covered with a film of oil.

Sudipto Mondal

MANGALORE: An oil leak from the Mangalore Refineries and Petrochemicals Limited has allegedly polluted three perennial irrigation wells in the Atturkodi area of Kuthethur village near the refinery. These wells supply water to almost hundred acres of land.

The affected farmers had detected the presence of some hydrocarbons in the water almost a month ago. Fifteen days ago Rayan D’Souza, one of the worst-hit farmers, lodged an official complaint with the company.

However, the officials of the company, after repeated requests from the affected people, turned up for a site inspection only on Saturday. According to Preethi D’Souza, belonging to the farm adjoining Mr. Rayan’s farm, there were two teams of company officials who visited the site on Saturday morning. The first team collected water samples while the second team made some enquiries.

A visit to the affected area revealed a pungent, petrol-like smell near the wells; there is also a thin film of oil floating on the water in many places. Local people told The Hindu that their livestock and cattle have stopped drinking the polluted water. The Hindu has collected samples of water from the affected area.

Lily D’Souza, Rayan’s mother, said that there are 10 families living in the area with a common ancestry who own 60 acres of land. There are seven wells that were built by their ancestors. All these wells are supposedly connected to the same underground source. With the pollution of the main perennial well and two other connecting wells, the fear is that the remaining four wells will also get polluted.

But the greatest loss, according to Ms. D’Souza, is that the first three wells were the ones supplying water to the farms; the water from the rest of the wells is only used for drinking and other domestic purposes. There are farmers living further downstream, owning another 40 acres of land, who are also dependant on the three wells for farming. Today, most of the D’Souza families draw drinking water from Ms. Preethi’s well, which is one of the four unpolluted wells. Most of the farmers here have areca nut plantations. If sufficient water is not supplied to the trees they could wither and die.

An MRPL spokesperson initially tried to dismiss the issue saying that it was “vegetable oil”. On being told that samples had been collected, the person agreed to reconsider the official statement.

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