Why The Villagers of Matpuria, Pakhda, Siholia & Duara Haven’t Slept in 15 Years

We as a society have become so absorbed in our daily lives that we are no longer conscious of what is happening around us. We are so oblivious to our surroundings, that we are clueless about the names of the villages mentioned above. I was, too – until I heard their story.

The four villages – Matpuria, Pakhda, Siholia and Duara – are located in the Sidhi district of Madhya Pradesh. The air they breathe can be seen in the video below:

If you watched this video and got the shock of your life, wait… there’s more.

There is open disregard for existing laws of the Centre and the Supreme court. The State level environment impact assessment authorities are morally depraved, having willingly committed dishonest acts in return for money and personal gains. And they are not alone.

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The scores of abandoned morals have never properly bottomed. The district is uncontrolled by legislation. The lawless passion has lead to the rise of a lawless society.

News Clipping Vibhor Gupta | Indus Dictum

The article in the image above is just one of the newspapers we use to wipe our windshields, lay below our food plate, and use in several voluntary institutions suited to man’s natural tendencies of neglecting life, as if what is written in black and white has no definite aim or purpose.

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Mining mafias in the said regions have flouted every rule of law in the book and blasted hills for monetary benefits. The illegal blasting is not only causing environmental hazards, but also making the surroundings of people living around these heavy machines uninhabitable.

Several reports state that if local inhabitants protest against the rising dust and noise, they are beaten. Alas, it is expected that the mining mafias won’t shy away from exploiting the deposits of forests even thought they be inhabited by tribal populations.

The Sone River, home to the last species of Indian gharial (crocodile), is in danger. The constant crusher and extraction of water has disproportionately affected forest ecosystems and the surrounding environment.

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Tribes in the region are being forced to relocate themselves deeper into the forest, where life will only get tougher. Monitoring agencies in the region have also failed to alleviate this issue. The impact of crushing units upon natural ecosystems, biodiversity, and tribal livelihoods have become a significant environmental concern, as also a source of conflict and socioeconomic tension in the regions.

The illegal operation of these stone crushers, in turn, have affected the livelihoods of thousands of residents of the area. It has begun to threaten the productivity of local farmlands, both qualitatively as well as quantitatively, thus having a serious and enduring consequence on the socioeconomic situation.

All environment management plans have failed to be implemented by any concerned authorities. There is no air pollution control measure in and around these regions. The approach roads leading to the villages are drowning in dust. Mineral reject from the mines have not been used for road maintenance, and the kaccha road turns into a swamp every time it rains. There has been no green belt development in the past 10 years.

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Water channels here have seen the adverse impacts of such illegal activities. Natural drains have diminished and the region is flooded with dirty, toxic water not stable for drinking or carrying out day to day activities like bathing or cleaning utensils.

Looming dust clouds have affected the health of the villagers, too. Residents have developed chronic breathing problems, and several villagers have developed respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis.

The machines used for crushing stones are massive. They are operational all day and all night around the year, unregulated. To catch a glimpse of the image I am trying to create, take a look at this video:

These illegal acts have lead to several villagers suffering from hypertension, which in this case is a direct result of noise pollution caused by constant exposure to the din of the stone crushers.

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Most villagers also have complaints of elevated blood pressure levels, which is again caused due to exposure to elevated noise levels for extended periods. Several villagers suffer from hearing loss owing to loud drilling at the crusher sites. These people haven’t slept in peace for almost a decade.

Sleep disturbances caused by the constant hammering of crushers from the mine have even lead to serious diseases in the children of the village. Some children face the disease of dementia, caused by compounded noise pollution over a long period.

The allocation of the said mine is in clear contravention of the statute declared under Civil Appeal No. 10732/1995 of the Supreme Court, which mandates that a minimum distance of 500 metres be maintained from human habitation.

If the law isn’t reason enough, then according to a World Bank report from 2013 titled Diagnostic Assessment of Select Environmental Challenges in India,’ the total annual cost of environmental degradation in the country amounts to about Rs 375 crore ($80 Billion), equivalent to 5.7% of the GDP in 2009.

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We, as a society, should try and uphold the true spirit of the law framed in the country. Article 51-A of the Constitution states:

It shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures.

So please do your duty and share this as much as possible while I try to move oblivious minds in Madhya Pradesh through the courts of the National Green Tribunal (NGT).

Vibhor Gupta is a civil and corporate lawyer in the courts of Delhi, and a farmer at heart.

Editor’s Note:
Adv. Gupta has appealed to the Bhopal Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on behalf of the villagers of Duara & others. The full application was previously shared here, but has been removed upon the author’s request. All views expressed in the article above are solely the authors. Indus Dictum is not liable for any content in this article.

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