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Nandesari, India - Cleaning up, but progress slow

Country: India
Location: Nandesari, Gujarat, India


Untreated effluent pumped from hundreds of textile, petrochemical, chemical, fertilizer and pharmaceutical factories in the area are polluting the groundwater and the soil.

Area Affected

Nandesari town (actually a large village) and surrounding areas. The Nandesari Industrial Estate (NIE) near the town of Vadodara is the area where the factories are located. It is right on the Mini River.


Nandesari has become a prime industrial centre for the Gujarat State and India as a whole. The Indian government has promoted industry but insufficient attention was paid to the pollutant effects of unfettered industrial expansion.

People, Animals, Plants and Waterways Effected

Although there is plenty of industrial activity, two-thirds of the human population depend on subsistence farming and small-scale agricultural production for a living. Pollutants have affected the soil and the waterways, with damaging effects to human health and to farm animals. Over 4 million people are affected or at risk.

Clean up Activities

Stakeholder group formed

The Blacksmith Institute has formed a stakeholders group, which includes the relevant government agencies, non-government organizations and community representatives to examine a number of sites, propose appropriate solutions and initiate clean-up activity. The government is negotiating with industry the establishment of effluent treatment plants for the roughly 250 factories involved.

Representatives have visited several affected sites in Nandesari including farming areas and other areas in the vicinity of chemical, petrochemical, fertilizer and pharmaceutical industries. The scope of the clean-up is increasing all the time as the group visits more sites to broaden the clean-up initiative.

Clean up stragegy - Mercury

The Blacksmith Institute divides its clean-up initiative in Nandesari into several parts according to the various types of contaminants that require elimination. Mercury is a major problem where there is chemical pollution. It is a dangerous neurotoxin to humans and animals alike and the fact that it is one of the most heavily used heavy metals in the world makes it probably one of the most damaging pollutants on earth. Exposure to high levels of mercury can damage practically every human organ, including brain, kidneys and the developing fetus. Even short-term exposure to the vapors can cause lung damage. The Blacksmith Institute concentrates its efforts on children, who tend to be the most affected. Limiting its release into the environment is one of the key strategies in the Nandesari clean-up effort.

Lead pollution

Lead is similarly harmful to human populations, particularly young children. Even low levels of exposure to lead can lead to lower IQ, shorter attention span, reading or learning disabilities, impaired physical growth and kidney damage.  The Blacksmith Institute does all it can to prevent large amounts of lead being released into the environment to contaminate soil and water resources and therefore work its way into the human food chain.

Proximity to subsistence agriculture and crop production

Although Nandesari is predominantly an industrialized area, the vast majority of the population relies on subsistence agriculture and, too a lesser extent, on cash crop production for its livelihood. Thus the danger of lead poisoning is high in the Nandesari area. Children under 6 years old are particularly vulnerable so the Institute is liaising with groups and institutions that can influence the way water is cleaned and food procured to reduce the incidence of lead poisoning. The physical clean-up of lead through the Blacksmith Institute’s Lead Program forms an important part of turning the situation around in Nandesari.

Tanneries & Chromium

Where there are tanneries in Nandesari the Blacksmith Institute is particularly vigilant. This is because the highly damaging substance called chromium (or rather a particular form of chromium known as hexavalent chromium)  is widely used in leather tanneries. This is a highly toxic substance, to put it mildly. The World Health Organization and the US Environmental Protection Agency regard it as a substance that causes cancer. If it comes into contact with the skin then ulcers result. Kidney and liver damage can result. The Blacksmith Institute’s Chromium and Tanneries Program had its genesis in a pilot-scale bioremediation project in Kanpur, India where hexavalent chromium in groundwater is detected. The knowledge gained in Kanpur can be applied in Nandesari wherever hexavalent chromium pollution is suspected.

Progress is slow

By mid-2008 there were no reports of significant progress having been made in cleaning up the Nandesari area.

How You Can Help

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  • Gujarat Pollution Control Board:
Submitted by Justine on Jul 30, 2008