The killing of river Luni

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A Rs 5,000 crore textile industry is leaching a desert river in Marwar with chemicals, even as the ground water for villagers plummets, reports Prakhar Jain

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IN THE desert town of Balotra, around 110 km from Jodhpur in Rajasthan, the dry bed of river Luni looks like a bluish-green carpet that stretches beyond the horizon. However, the greenery is not because of vegetation or trees, it is caused by the dyes and chemicals that are discharged from the textile-processing hub located in the region.

The town of Balotra, In Rajasthan’s Barmer district, is known for its textile industry that is engaged in processing the fabric used in making gowns, petticoats and lining material for thin clothes. The units supply textiles across India and to many west-African and neighbouring countries of India. The industry processes more than 1,800 million metres of cloth every year. But over the past few years, the town is gaining notoriety for the coloured riverbed of Luni.

According to the people of the town, the river last flowed with natural rainwater in the 1990s. After that, because of successive droughts, it has never seen any water apart from the effluents discharged in it by the textile units of the town.

River Luni originates in the Pushkar valley of the Aravalli Range, near Ajmer, where it is known as Sagarmati. It then flows southwest, to the Marwar region, entering a patch of desert, before disappearing into the marshes of the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat.

Bleeding chemistry (L to R) A worker pours dye for printing; laying out the dyed fabric to dry; water, treated in the CETPS, is still stained with dyesPhotos: Vijay Pandey

 

Elders of Balotra remember farmers growing crops on the banks of the river using tube-wells. Narayan Chelaji (44), a farmer, says, “We used to grow wheat and bajra in our farms, but the water level has gone down, from 20 ft in the past to more than 200 ft. Now, we are dependent on the seasonal rains for whatever little we want to cultivate. Else, nothing grows here.”

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