Half of the villagers from Hazira and Gundardi fled away to Surat due to pollution caused by AM/NS India


Half of the villagers from Hazira and Gundardi fled away to Surat due to pollution caused by AM/NS India

Surat (Gujarat] [India], March 16: Dinesh Patel, a small-time worker at Adani Port, owns an ancestral one-storey cottage in Hazira village. He invested a substantial sum behind the remodeling of the bungalow last year with the hope of earning a respectable monthly rent revenue. To his dismay, approximately ten house-hunters declined his offer to rent the home. It was not that Dinesh quoted a high rental, but the bungalow’s only disadvantage is its proximity to the iron and steel facility of Arcelor Mittal and Nippon Steel (AM/NS India).

“Dar Be Divase akkho bungalow saf karvo pade che, akkhu ghar lal rakh thi gandu thay che’ (Every alternate day, the cottage must be cleaned due to the red ash covering the flooring.)” says Dinesh Patel, who is living in a rented house in Hazira village. “There are periodic blasts in the chimney of AM/iron NS’s plant, which is located barely 100 meters from my bungalow, enveloping the entire town in a blanket of crimson ash. Due to the proximity of my house to the iron plant, I am the most impacted.”

Half of the villagers from Hazira and Gundardi fled away to Surat due to pollution caused by AM/NS IndiaHalf of the villagers from Hazira and Gundardi fled away to Surat due to pollution caused by AM/NS India

Hazira, a small seaside village, was densely populated a decade ago by fishermen and residents who commuted to Surat for work. Around half of Hazira’s population has fled to the city in recent years because of significant air and water pollution caused by the giant industries, primarily the AM/NS India.

“We left our village house five years ago,” recalls Mukesh Patel, who lives in a rented apartment in Surat’s Adajan. “Hazira was a lovely village, and we enjoyed living there.” We hoped the arrival of AM/NS India in Hazira would solve our long-standing pollution problems, but we were mistaken. The situation has worsened since 2019. We are inhaling crimson ash emitted by the company’s iron plant. Our groundwaters have turned blood-red.”

The narrow road crisscrossing the freight railway line leads to a small hamlet, Gundardi, which is surrounded by the steel plant of AM/NS India. Less than 200 families—earlier the village had a population of around 1,500 families—are left in the village, while others have migrated to Surat and Navsari.

Half of the villagers from Hazira and Gundardi fled away to Surat due to pollution caused by AM/NS India

Nirmala Nagin Patel, 70, a resident of Gundardi Falia has seen vagaries of difficult times in the last many years. The village is located some five to six feet below the steel plant of the AM/NS, which results in unforeseen difficulties for the villagers during the monsoon season.

“My entire house gets submerged in eight to 10 feet of stinking flood waters during the monoon season. The color of the water is red due to the pollution from the AM/NS steel plant. Only five houses are left in our locality, while others have fled to Surat” says Nirmala Patel.

Nirmala’s elder son is a driver in one of the industries in Hazira, while her other son drives an OLA cab in Surat. She is the owner of a 10-bigha farm in the village, but the land is of no use due to the illegal dumping of the steel slag by AM/NS India. “We can’t till the land. Along with the steel slag, my farm is covered with wild weed known as ‘gando baval’. At night, heavy vehicles continue dumping the slag in the village making it difficult for us to have a good night’s sleep, especially my little grandchildren” said Nirmala.

The demands of the villagers in Hazira and Gundardi

Villagers said they are not against industrialisation and are ready to leave the village, provided they are paid as per the market value of the land by AM/NS India. If they are not ready to purchase their houses and farm lands then they have to give permanent jobs to their sons and daughters in the company.

The TBT team discovered a family’s cottage in Gundardi village, approximately 30 meters from AM/NS India’s steel plant’s enormous Chimney. Due to the close vicinity of the Chimney, the family members claim that the normal temperature in their house is always 6 to 8 degrees Celsius higher than outside. The Chimney, rather than the scorching heat in the summer, is wreaking havoc on the family’s living conditions.

Dipak Patel, Hazira Kantha Vistar Odhyogik Pradushan Nivaran Samiti told TBT, “The villagers of Hazira and Gundardi are living in hell. They are surrounded by the AM/NS India’s steel and iron plant. Inside the company premises, one can see mountains of steel slag dumped in the open. The hazardous ash material emanating from the iron plant is very dangerous for the health of the villagers”

Patel was at the forefront of the campaign to persuade the district administration and the GPCB to postpone the public hearing for the AM/NS India’s Environment Clearance (EC) for the steel mill expansion in the first week of March.

“We can’t uproot the AM/NS India from Hazira. What we want is the assurance of health safety of the villagers and permanent jobs to at least 10 youths from each of the affected villages in Hazira” said Patel.

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