Farming with waste water a health hazard

Farming with waste water a health hazard

Farming with waste water a health hazard

Polluted air and water might be Bengaluru’s bane, but vegetables grown on farms irrigated with contaminated water have given it a hazardous twist. Interactions with farmers, retailers and consumers indicate that a big chunk of vegetables arriving in markets across the City might show chemical contamination if tested.

Puroshottam Gowda, a farmer from Ballari opines that the share of such vegetables could be as high as 75%. “Most of the vegetables are grown near Kengeri and surrounding areas. The farmers grow greens, tomato, cabbage and other vegetables using water from a sewage treatment plant. The water is supposed to be purified but at most places, the plants do not work. This is unfortunate."

However, RV Gopi, President, Wholesale Vegetables and Fruits Traders Merchant Association, does not agree. According to him, drainage water was earlier being used by vegetable growers in Kengeri, Gollahalli and Varthur. But now, says he, most of the farmers have stopped vegetable farming there due to encroachment of lakes and rapid urbanisation. 

Sellers and middlemen at Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) Yard, Yeshwantpur admit that the quality of fruits and vegetables has come down because of bad water quality and pollution.

Yet, there are many others who deny using dirty water to grow greens. Suresh, a wholesale onion and potato merchant from APMC contends that most of his produce comes from Maharashtra and Chitradurga region. He says the farmers there depend on borewell water and tap water to grow vegetables and not drainage.

Hoskote-based farmer Chandra Gowda claims he uses borewell water for vegetable farming. But he has seen a few farmers using water from polluted lakes in his locality.

Environmentalists suggest that reducing pollution at water source points and increasing awareness among public on the dangers of consuming food with high heavy metal contamination could be helpful. But consumers say they are helpless. Despite knowing the harmful effects of chemical contamination, they have no choice but to buy the fruits and vegetables from the markets.

Says Sheela Kumar, a resident of Hennur: “Today, everything from water to air to soil is contaminated. I try washing fruits and vegetables with running water as many times as possible and boil them properly before consuming them. We cannot avoid consuming them. Taking precautionary measures is the best available option.”

Malini Parmar, a resident of Bellandur and an active member of Kasa Muktha Bellandur, informs that BBMP had conducted a drive in her locality to seize plastics. The Palike personnel confiscated boxes filled with artificial colouring content from vegetable farmers. These were used to add colour to peas.

Parmar sees a way out in using organic vegetables. She explains, “The best way to avoid consumption of harmful produce is by buying organic produce. Though it is expensive, it is worth as it keeps me and my family healthy. Apart from sewage effluents inside the lake, garbage is also being burnt and dumped there. I see ashes floating atop Bellandur lake due to burning of waste.”

Malleswaram resident Sampath Kumar agrees that organic vegetables could be an option only if people can afford them. “Not everyone can buy organic stuff,” he points out.

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