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Hyderabad's river Musi has become dangerously polluted

Despite filing a petition in 1990 against pollution in the river Musi, the residents of Patancheru continue to suffer its effects

Hyderabad's famous Musi river, which runs through the outer districts of the city, has become a polluted drain. The ground near the water is sticky and red and gives off a powerful ammonia smell. The colour of the water ranges from dull grey to black; polythene packets and animal carcasses lie in the water.

Says Vijay Phalke, of the Musi Parerakshna Samiti: "Because of this water, people have health problems. Nearly 11,000 people live in this village, and all have problems. Children, men and women, all have back problems, pain in their legs and hands, poor eyesight and skin lesions. The women have a lot of problems. Many have had miscarriages. One woman, Vasantha, had 16 miscarriages; now she has adopted a girl-child. Or take 24-year-old Veerswami whose physical and mental capacity is that of a nine-year-old child. There are three-four cases like his. All the medical reports point a finger towards the waters of the Musi."

Phalke himself lives with his two children, wife and mother. "We buy a 30-litre can every day. Otherwise we get cans for Rs 10 each. Expenses for water each month are Rs 150; medicines cost Rs 1,200-Rs 1,300. I have lesions on my body. I have become weak. My hair has greyed (prematurely)."

Around 90% of people here buy their drinking water from outside; the remaining 10% drink untreated water from the river.

Apart from the health problems, commercial activities too have been badly affected. "Earlier, we used to swim in this lake, and 100-150 vehicles full of city tourists used to come. Now no one comes here...We have three hotels and two are planning to close."

In 1990, the people of Patencheru filed a petition against the pollution in the Musi river. That year, the Supreme Court passed an order directing the CPCB and APCB to implement certain measures. The court clearly stated that toxic substances must be segregated and treated at the factory. But, it's been five years and untreated pollutants continue to flow into the river.

Phalke says: "Our area's minister is state home minister Devinder Goud. He just pacifies us with talk and sends us back. He says the government is (building) treatment plants at Amberpet, Nagole and Uppal. From Patencheru, waste water from 350 companies flows in. And if from Uppal too another 22-km-long pipeline comes, then it will negate the effects of the treatment plant. If the untreated pipeline comes from Patencheru, then the treatment plant, costing Rs 3,401 crore, will be fruitless. All the families here will have to leave this place. We have no other option. We are asking the government to treat the water and stop the Patencheru pipeline (from emptying) into the Musi without being treated. Rs 344 crore has been sanctioned to clean the river and they should do it."

-- Safia Sircar

(InfoChange News and Features, October 2003)