Ultratech Cement mines limestone (and villagers) in Chhattisgarh

The people of Parswani were promised jobs, healthcare and water. Now, after signing an MOU, they just about get polluted water for irrigation purposes.
A view of the Ulratech Cement factory from Paraswani
A view of the Ulratech Cement factory from Paraswani

Paraswani village in Balodabazar district, Chhattisgarh contains vast reserves of limestone, a sedimentary rock that is a primary ingredient in the cement manufacturing process. Since 1992, Ultratech Cement Ltd. (UTCL) followed by four other similar companies, have begun excavating this rock within a 30 km radius of the village.

UTCL operates an 8200 TPD (Tonnes Per Day) plant, which is supported by captive limestone mines, and is spread over about 997.355 hectares. Mining depth is currently at 37 metres below ground level, and UTCL will continue to operate the mine until its lifetime when about 231.48 million tonnes of mineable reserves are used up.

"Before the commissioning of the UTCL plant, the people of our village were given a 100% job guarantee and promised other basic facilities such as water, health, education, etc., but the company has recruited only 16 people as employees and 50-60 as contractual labourers. Every year, we face domestic water crises and now we are also facing water crises to sustain our farms", says Dhelsingh Verma, a senior representative of Paraswani.

Earlier, water from the Paraswani Dam met irrigation needs but as the mines expanded, Paraswani's resources have reduced. As the demand for water to irrigate their fields went up, the villagers were left with only one option which was to procure the waste water generated by UTCL as the company had refused to provide fresh water for this purpose. Now, the villagers have signed an MOU with the company to procure polluted water for irrigation.

The copy of the MOU provided to India Water Portal clearly states that the water supplied by the company is not fit for drinking purposes and should be used only for irrigation. The company also does not take any responsibility regarding the quality and quantity of the water supplied to the villagers.

The people of Parswani are also having to deal with other fallouts from this agreement such as lack of infrastructure and healthcare. The photos below show how the villagers are coping with the poor hand they've been dealt with.

 

 

"80% of Paraswani's landscape is now just mines. In two decades, Ultratech Cement Ltd. has acquired 842.18 hectares out of 1000 hectares for commercial mining", says Balram Mirjha, Sarpanch of Paraswani village.

 

The outer and inner purple borders in the map show the total area of Paraswani village before and after mining activities began.

 

"Before 1990, the area available for agriculture at Paraswani was 1007 acres but stands at 200 acres now. This reduction has affected the livelihoods of 90 % of the villagers", says Lokram Verma, a farmer from Paraswani.

  

"In the last two decades, the surface and groundwater availability of the region has drastically reduced due to the continuous excavation of limestone in the area. This has also affected the climate and environment of the region. The quality of agricultural produce has deteriorated and so has the quality of the soil", says Lalji Gayakwad, an affected farmer.

 

"In the 1990s, there were more than 2500 cattle in our village but within two decades, their population has reduced by 60% due to contaminated water and cattle fodder due to mining activities", says Lakhanlal Dhritlahare, a resident. As recently as 2013, contaminated water killed 75 cattle.

 

"In the 1980s, our village had 200 acres of grazing land for our cattle but due to the company's greed and government's negligence, only 2 acres are left. We now have to buy fodder”, says Lokram Verma, a senior activist of the village.

 

"In 1964, the Paraswani dam was built to serve the village's agricultural water needs. Out of the 55 acres of the dam catchment area, UTCL has acquired 25 acres. Due to increased mining activity, the water retention capacity of the dam has reduced by 50%", says Jagdish Lasel, Panch of Paraswani village.

 

The roads that pass through the village are dusty. UTCL has neither made provisions for better roads nor is it allowing the government to build roads as the land is now theirs on lease. Without a healthcare centre in Parswani, the villagers are suffering respiratory disorders.

 

 

 

View more photos of the mines in Parswani.

 

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