Poisoned beach


Effluents from an industrial estate destroy the coastal ecology and deprive local people of their livelihood at Tadgam in Gujarat.

Chemical waste from the nearby industrial estate being emptied onto the beach at Tadgam 
Chemical waste from the nearby industrial estate being emptied onto the beach at Tadgam.

FAR from urban influences and pollutants, the beach at Tadgam in Valsad district in south Gujarat should be bustling with life. Gulls, sandpipers, stints and egrets should be foraging for shrimps, crabs, mudskippers, cuttlefish and other creatures that live under the shingle or in the small rock pools that teem with life when the tide is out. And the nearby fishing village of Tadgam should be a living example of coastal prosperity. But one look into the baskets of the fisherwomen and it is clear that this idyll is history. A single small crab and three tiny shrimps crawl about forlornly inside. “This is what we get after being on the beach for more than an hour,” says Parvatibai, a fisherwoman. It has been a long time since Tadgam had signs of normal sea life.

The beach is thick with a stinking, toxic sludge. The steaming effluent pours out of a pipe with a diameter of two feet (0.6 metre). “It flows day and night throughout the year,” says Parvatibai. The 13.34-kilometre-long pipeline originates at the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation's (GIDC) industrial estate in Sarigam town and has been discharging the toxic brew onto the beach at Tadgam since 1999 when it was laid. The pipeline traverses four villages – Tadgam, Saronda, Nargol and Maroli – with a population of about 30,000 people. Leaks and the consequent seepage into the ground and the dumping of chemicals into small streams would have affected an estimated 25,000 more people.

The untreated chemical effluence has resulted in a huge loss of earnings to the local people, and in some cases resulted in skin and respiratory ailments. “We believe it has affected our health. The polluted water and air has given us rashes, fevers and digestive disorders. When we complain we are asked for proof. What more proof do they need than the fact that we have seen the difference in our lives before and after this pipeline,” says Yatin Bhandari, sarpanch of Nargol village.


The pipeline, 13.34 km long, originates at the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation's Sarigam industrial estate in Sarigam town and has been discharging the toxic waste since 1999.

An informal observation made by Dharmesh Patel, a local health worker from the primary health centre in Maroli, is that “60 per cent of the population in the three villages has skin and respiratory problems, of which most cases are from Tadgam”. Dashratbhai Rathod, a former sarpanch of Saronda village, said: “The pipeline leaks and poisons our crops. Even the water we draw using the hand-pump is reddish. Dal and rice do not cook easily in it. About 15 wells are spoilt. The water stinks of chemicals.”

Prakash Arekar, who has campaigned against industrial pollution in Sarigam for two decades, says he has seen mango trees go barren because of the pollution. The “sickness is permanent” in some neighbourhoods, he adds. The claims do not seem exaggerated. A few minutes near the outlet at Tadgam cause nausea and shortness of breath, which the residents of Tadgam village and Lord's Seaside Cooperative Housing Society too experience when the breeze blows inland.