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Organization: Centre for Community Health Research
The following information may be cited or quoted as long as the source is accurately mentioned and the words are not taken out of context.
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PROGRESS: Has your organization seen progress toward a culture of peace and nonviolence in your domain of action and in your constituency during the first half of the Decade?

As per our observation/study, it was found that various forms of torture, human rights violation on vulnerable sections (women/children etc) in the society increasing day-by-day.

Poor women in India particularly in Kerala, face many barriers to the realisation of their rights including an inability to get their voices heard. Women often within the society suffer from multiple deprivation of rights.Where ever there is communal conflicts, women are continue to face serious threats to their physical safety, denying them the opportunity to exercise their basic human rights and to participate fully and effectively in rebuilding their country. Effectively silencing women who suffered gruesome sexual and physical abuses.

Poverty is not only the consequence of a lack of resources but also due to certain discrimination in their society. Such discrimination is a form of social exclusion and a cause of poverty. The realization of women's rights is a global struggle based on universal human rights and the rule of law.

Millions of women throughout the world live in conditions of abject deprivation of, and attacks against, their fundamental human rights for no other reason than that they are women.
Millions of women and girls are forced to marry and have sex with men they do not desire.  

We have a programme called "Realization of the human rights of the poor women in South India". Various aspects of the "quality of life" of the poor women are the main indicators.

OBSTACLES: What are the most important obstacles that have prevented progress?

There are many obstacles that have prevented progress:
(a). Lack of political will
(b) The administrative systems usually inactive (corruption?)
(c) Lack of advocacy/ transperency/accountability at all levels especially in developing countries.

ACTIONS: What actions have been undertaken by your organization to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence during the first half of the Decade?

Realisation of Human Rights of the poor women in Tsunami affected Tamil Nadu and Kerala (India).

Introduction

The realization of women's rights is a global struggle based on universal human rights and the rule of law. Millions of women throughout the world live in conditions of abject deprivation of, and attacks against, their fundamental human rights for no other reason than that they are women. It is actually a crime against humanity. We live in a world in which women do not have basic control over what happens to their bodies. Millions of women and girls are forced to marry and have sex with men they do not desire. The voices of the excluded can be translated into concrete responses from government.Under international law, governments have a duty to respond effectively to violence  against women, including rape. Where ever there is communal conflicts, women are continue to face serious threats to their physical safety, denying them the opportunity to exercise their basic human rights and to participate fully and effectively in rebuilding their country. Effectively silencing women who suffered gruesome sexual and physical abuses.
Poor women in India particularly in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, face many barriers to the realisation of their rights including an inability to get their voices heard. Women often within the society suffer from multiple deprivation of rights.Poverty is not only the consequence of a lack of resources but also due to certain discrimination in their society. Such discrimination is a form of social exclusion and a cause of poverty.The Universal Declaration of Human Rights sets out all people's human rights. These rights include economic, social and cultural rights, such as rights to the highest attainable standard of health and education, as well as civil and political rights such as rights to life and liberty.

It was often noted that discrimination is a form of social exclusion and a cause of poverty. Some people may be unable to access the resources made available by growth because of discrimination against their gender, skin colour, age, disability or other identity. Discrimination may be the result of legal inequalities in status and entitlements. The values and norms may result in discriminatory practices in the implementation of policies as well as in households and communities. In extreme cases, discrimination and exclusion may lead to conflict.

But national institutions for the protection and promotion of human rights ( National Human Rights Commission / Government/Authority/ and so ) do not always pay much attention to the rights of people particularly the poor. Development Targets can only be achieved with the engagement of poor people in the decisions and processes, which affect their lives. Human rights are a central part of work to achieve the International Development Targets
because they provide a means of empowering all people to make effective decisions about their own lives.Participation, inclusion and fulfilling obligation - which are central to the realisation of all human rights and, consequently, to the achievement of the International Development Targets. The central focus of the policy is a commitment to the internationally agreed target to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015, together with the associated targets including basic health care provision and universal access to primary education by the same date.

Illiteracy, linguistic diversity, physical remoteness, poor transport and social isolation can all create communication difficulties possess critical ground-level information on human rights. Human rights are legally guaranteed by human rights law, which consists of the treaties as well as declarations, guidelines and principles that have been agreed under the auspices of the United Nations since 1945.
Human rights institutions can influence government to promote rights more vigorously, and to address rights violations where they occur. Therefore, all Human Rights Institutions like State Human Rights Commission/ Women's Commission/ Women's Courts etc., in the State will involve in the process of the realisation of Human Rights for poor, particularly for the rights of women.

Existing Problems identified:

* Women are often systematically discriminated against, excluded from political participation and public life, segregated in their daily lives, raped in communal violence (eg. recent communal violence in Marad , Kerala), beaten in their homes, denied equal divorce or inheritance rights, killed for having sex, forced to marry, assaulted for not conforming to gender norms, and sold into forced labor.

* Women are unable to depend on the government to protect them from physical violence in the home, with sometimes fatal consequences, including increased risk of HIV/AIDS infection. It was reported brutal rapes, sexual assaults and sexual slavery in areas of communal violence.

* For instance, women are bought and sold, trafficked to work in forced prostitution, with insufficient government attention to protect their rights and punish the traffickers. Women’s ability to enter and remain in the work force is obstructed by private employers who use dictate women's access to reproductive health care

* Arguments that sustain and excuse these human rights abuses - those of cultural norms, "appropriate" rights for women, or western imperialism - barely disguise their true meaning: that women's lives matter less than men's. Cultural relativism, which argues that there are no universal human rights and that rights are culture-specific and culturally determined, is still a formidable and corrosive challenge to women's rights to equality and dignity in all facets of their lives.

* People receive differential treatment from government officials because of their class, religious identity, disability, age, ethnicity or skin colour. Women often do not have equal rights to land, they may be unable to challenge their husband without risk of being thrown out of the household .

* Working women: farm owners deny black women farm workers legal contracts, pay them less than men for similar work, and deny them maternity benefits. Sexual harassment and violence in the workplace are common and constant threats to working women's lives and livelihoods.

* Migrant workers are especially vulnerable to abuse, including trafficking and forced labor.

* Domestic violence: Unremedied domestic violence essentially denies women equality before the law and reinforces their subordinate social status. Men use domestic violence to diminish women's autonomy and sense of self-worth. States that fail to prevent and prosecute domestic violence treat women as second-class citizens and send a clear message that the violence against them is of no concern to the broader society.

* The police and courts treat complaints by battered women as less serious than other assault complaints, and there are persistent problems with the provision of medical expertise to courts when women have been abused.

* Discriminatory attitudes of law enforcement officials, prosecutors, and judges, who often consider domestic violence a "private" matter beyond the reach of the law, reinforce the batterer's attempts to demean and control his victim.

* Internally displaced women due to communal violence:
They are vulnerable to violence both as a result of the surrounding problem and because of their dependence on outsiders for relief provisions. Internally displaced women are further at risk because often the government that should protect them is also the government that persecutes them. ( Several killings due to communal violence in Malabar area of Kerala as a result, there was fleeing of women and children from their villages; rehabilitation camps still in Kerala (Marad in Northern Kerala. Women and children from minority communities are there in the rehabilitation camps.).

* Women in the rehabilitation camps may have suffered relentless domestic and sexual violence, but the women have no realistic chance to pursue criminal cases against their attackers. When women seeking asylum reported being raped by miscreants, adjudicators rejected/ not registered their claims, treating these acts of persecution as a "private" moment.

* Sexual autonomy: are denied control over their sexuality. Women are forced into marriage, denied access to the public sphere, and punished if they violate rigid codes governing how women walk, dress, and speak.

* Communal violence: Some 160 million people in India live a precarious existence, shunned by much of society because of their rank as "untouchables" or Dalits-literally meaning "broken" people-at the bottom of India's caste system. Dalits are discriminated against, denied access to land, forced to work in degrading conditions, and routinely abused, even killed. Dalit women are frequent victims of sexual abuse. The entire villages in many Indian states remain completely segregated by caste (Ref. Human Rights Watch-Sexual violence in India, 2003, _ HYPERLINK http://www.hrw.org

* Trafficking: Trafficking into forced marriage- is a tragic and complex human rights abuse. Women are particularly vulnerable to this slavery-like practice, due largely to the persistent inequalities they face in status and opportunity. Consistent patterns in the trafficking of women reported as coercive tactics, including deception, fraud, intimidation, isolation, threat and use of physical force, or debt bondage, are used to control women. Usually, corrupt officials facilitate the trafficking, accepting bribes to falsify documents and provide protection.

* Women in State Custody: Male jailers sexually and physically abuse women in custody, especially those held without access to courts, counsel, or their families. The abuse, including rape, inappropriate sexual touching, beatings, excessive pat-downs and strip searches, and the use of sexualized language, is a crude example of the power imbalance between guards and prisoners, as well as between men and women. As a result, incarcerated women are intimidated into silence, and their attackers remain free to continue the abuse.

* Women's Status in the Family and Legal Status: Laws and practices governing women's personal status, their legal capacity and role in the family often deny women their human rights. While the type of discrimination varies according to the laws and practices of the communities and regions.


Objectives
The human rights approach to development means empowering people to take their own decisions, rather than being the passive objects of choices made on their behalf.

A rights-based approach means that it is the duty and responsibility of  the partner organisations that should work in ways that strengthen the accountability of governments to people living in poverty. Women cannot access their rights when their voices are not heard, when they are discriminated against, or when the state is not accountable for its human rights obligations.

*To increase the participation of excluded people in decision-making processes and strengthen their access to services and resources.

*Disseminate good practice in participatory research methods

* Civil society at national and local levels must work to promote the rights and
needs of excluded people.


* To promote a co-ordinated response (*sector-wide approaches) among governments, development agencies and civil society.


* In association with other Local level organisations, try  to develop innovative ways of promoting human rights which may serve to influence programmes and policies at both national and international levels.
* Civil societies/ CBOs/NGOs at national and local levels should work to promote the rights and needs of excluded people.
* To address the needs, rights and perceptions of poor people.
* Special attention should be given to the demand of rights of the ethnic minority women.
* To provide Technical assistance to grass-root organisations which can help to ensure that which can be able to develop broad based approaches to human rights and develop inclusive approaches to their work.
A rights perspective means incorporating the empowerment of poor people into our approach to tackling poverty. It means ensuring that poor people's voices are heard when decisions which affect their lives are made. It means recognising that equality matters.


Fights against the dehumanization and marginalization of women. We promote women's equal rights and human dignity. Further, access through the primary health-care system to reproductive health services for all individuals of appropriate ages as soon as possible and no later than the year 2015. The realization of women's rights is a global struggle based on universal human rights and the rule of law.  In practice, this means taking action to stop discrimination and violence against women.

Spread human rights literacy among various sections of society and promote awareness of the safeguards available for the protection of these rights through publications, the media, seminars and other available means.

Strengthening women's capacity to promote and protect their rights is critical to protecting the environment. Women's Rights Project undertakes on-the-ground trainings for women to teach them about their rights as women and as human beings, and to assist them in developing strategies - local to international - to promote and protect these rights.

CCHR works with indigenous women's groups in Kerala to plan and organize trainings that meet their needs. To publicize human rights and efforts to combat all forms of discrimination, in particular racial discrimination, by increasing public awareness, especially through information and education and by making use of all press organs.

To assist in the formulation of programmes for the teaching of, and research into, human rights and to take part in their execution in schools, universities and professional circles.

Drawing the attention of the government to situations in any part of the country where human rights are violated and making proposals to it for initiatives to put an end to such situations and, where necessary, expressing an opinion on the positions and reactions of the government;

Any legislative or administrative provisions, as well as provisions relating to judicial organization, intended to preserve and extend the protection of human rights.

Further, the objective of the proposed studies is to document the types and modes of human rights violations, understand and analyse the causes and suggest remedial measures.Preparing guidelines for developing infrastructure to bring them under the purview of treatment, care and rehabilitation programme. Determining whether the Human Rights of inmates of homes and jails are adequately protected. This project is aimed at creating conditions for effective use of Human Rights Instruments for protection of the rights of persons with disabilities. The project would systematically incorporate education, knowledge and awareness about major human rights instruments, Disability Act 1995 and reporting and remedial procedures available under these in the course curricula of students of law and human rights and judges and activists in the area of disability/human rights.

The project would encourage and advise on the development of jurisprudence in the area of human rights of women. To evolve training strategies for the various identified knowledge, skills and attitudinal domains related to Human Rights.

The broad objective of the study is to gather data on biases criminal justice in system against the poor and their custodialisation. Suggesting appropriate strategies to save them from inhuman exploitation through child labour, prostitution, beggary etc.

Follow-up action:-
The findings of the study along with the Action Plan were sent to all concerned Ministries in the Government of India and other stakeholders. Disseminating information among International bodies, Central Government organizations, State Governments, NGOs etc. Recommending steps to bridge the gap through better utilization of existing scheme, introduce new schemes (if needed), utilize the community resources and individual professional skills.

This study aims at looking into the human rights situation in India with particular reference to the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR).

Following are few precise actions:

1.To analyse the Government's initiatives and intervention in terms of allocation of resources for the realization of ESCR especially the rights to food, health and education with particular reference to the marginalized (Adivasis, Dalits, Women and Children)

2. To know civil society initiatives in helping people to claim ESCR;

3. To understand how far people are getting benefits from the Governmental initiatives pertaining to ESCR.

4.Prevention and resistance of torture done by power and authority. Provision of care/treatment/counselling and rehabilitation for victims of torture.

Specific objectives:
*Empower the general population to prevent and resist torture

*Identify the victims of Torture, extent possible free medical and Psychological treatment, guidance, and help.

*Establishment of Human Rights Cells in schools and colleges through regular interaction and training programme of adolescents and youths to prevent torture and cruelties,.

*Impart specialised training to police / prison officials in torture prevention with the cooperation of the government.

*Train young lawyers to provide legal help to the victims of torture and their relatives.

*Train medical personnel to treat physical and mental problems of the victims of torture.

*Ensure support to National/State  Human Rights Commissions, / National Commission for women/ State Women's Commissions, Juvenile Welfare Board, Courts, Police and other Government Departments and cooperate in their work.

*Mobilize public opinion and persuade the government to ratify the 1984 Convention against torture and bring in necessary law reform to protect Human Rights more effectively.

*All people must exercise their rights responsibly and respect the rights of others.

Addressing through educational interventions:

Project Activities:
The training seek to give primarily refugee women a general overview of human rights and women's rights theory, law, institutions, and mechanisms. The training combine lectures, games, role-plays, small- and large-group discussions, and other participatory activities. Every training culminates in an action-planning session, in which the participants affirm their commitment to the issues, and develop specific plans for how they can work to promote and protect their rights in their local communities, be they villages or refugee camps. The WRP frequently holds follow-up training or meetings with the indigenous women's groups that originally requested the training, and assists with ongoing campaigns or activities.

SHWG will  be able to promotes the idea that citizens have a right both to know how they are governed and to participate actively in the process of auditing their representatives.

*Checking should be done through proper scrutiny of expenditure for a transparent policy, in order to meet its obligations for realisation of Human Rights for all.

* Combined action to enable governments to establish, implement and monitor the application of anti-discrimination legislation in accordance with the relevant human rights instruments, and in relation to all spheres of life,including justice systems, property rights, financial services and  employment .

*The eradication of poverty becomes a legally binding responsibility for which the state is accountable. There are various ways in which accountability can be demanded from the state. These include monitoring policy and parliamentary processes, lobbying and advocacy, political pressure, interventions by the Human Rights and Gender Equality Commissions and court applications.

* To set up Legal Council ( Forum of  Women Lawyers ) in selected villages in Tamil Nadu and Kerala to address the grievance  of the poor women in the respective districts. Since women lawyers can understand the constraints and difficulties of women victims. These poor women can be able to approach these lawyers for their course.

*We have very close working arrangement with the State Unit of the Human Rights Watch- International. A platform to draw the attention of  human rights violation.  : Website: _ HYPERLINKS http://www.hrw.org and www.krpcds.org.

*The involvement of civil society in the implementation of developmental projects has been found to be a substitute for accountable and effective state institutions.

*Building on our own experience along with our partner organisations, we will integrate human rights into development work at all levels.

Challenges during implementation of project: Protecting and promoting human rights during violent conflict/ communal riot is one of the most difficult challenges .When people flee to other places, then there is a need of rehabilitation and protection of their rights.

*There is  enormous challenges to realising human rights for poor people in order to translate a commitment to human rights into practical action.

* A rights approach does not prescribe easy answers to difficult questions about priorities.

* There require more systematic effort to turn policies into practice.

*There is a large gap between the aspirations contained in the principles of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the experiences of people living in poverty.

*The progressive realisation of human rights requires resources and strategic planning for medium and long-term action.

*A rights approach does not provide easy solutions or prescribed answers.

"Specialized" national institutions which function to protect the rights of a particular vulnerable group such as ethnic and linguistic minorities, indigenous populations, children, refugees or women

*Impact at Local and National level:
At the local level, it means empowerment of the poor to ensure greater participation in decision-making processes and increased capacity to claim their rights. At the national level, it requires reform of legal frameworks, policies and service delivery to ensure the realisation of human rights and to respond to the needs, interests and rights of all.

*Action to enable governments to establish, implement and monitor the application of anti-discrimination legislation in accordance with the relevant human rights instruments, and in relation to all spheres of life, including justice systems, property rights, financial services and employment.

* To make provision for mother tongue literacy training in adult education programmes; protection of human rights through local Red Cross Unit, PHCs, ICDS Centres, SHWGs, Neighborhood groups, etc.
* To implement curricula modification at school levels in order to incorporate valus of human rights.
* To analysis and  identify the causes of conflict and to prevent it from occurring.
* Education and awareness programmes should be given to  people working in police services and justice systems regarding the  issues of domestic violence in order to raise their awareness and responsiveness.

* To promote civil society organisations in order to engaged in legal advocacy which can represent the poor in public interest and class action litigation cases.


Project prepared by:

1.
Commonwealth Human Ecology Council (CHEC)
Church House, Newton Road
London W2 5LS
Tel: +44 (0)20 7792 5934
Fax: +44 (0)20 7792 5948
E-mail: Chec@btopenworld.com
Website: www.chec-hq.org

Dr.M.K.P.Roy
Executive Director
Centre for Community Health Research,
Sadanathil bungalow, Vettikavala, Kottarakara,
Kerala- 691 538, INDIA
Tel: 91 474 2403358, Fax: 91 474 2746293
E-mail:roycchr@satyam.net.in



Protest march of Tribal and Dalit women of Plachimada (Palakkad District) in Kerala against the over exploitation of groundwater by the Coca-cola factory.



A scene of long queue of empty vessels for collecting drinking water in Kollam beach of Kerala State in India where acute  scarcity water affected the dignity of women and children severely.



A girl from Kollam (Kerala, India) collects water drops from the leakage of a private pipe-line in order to meet her basic needs.

ADVICE: What advice would you like to give to the Secretary-General and the General Assembly to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence during the second half of the Decade?

Following are our suggestions:
(a). People's participation at all levels- in order to ensure more trasperencey and accountability.
(b)All Govrnments should ensure the rights of the poor and vulnerable in the society.
(c) To rehabilate torture victims/ to start torture prevention Centres world over/ to ensure the sustainable livelihood of the poor and vulnerable.
(d) To educate peace and harmony at school levels for a better tomorrow.

PARTNERSHIPS: What partnerships and networks does your organization participate in, thus strengthening the global movement for a culture of peace?

Activities and Actions at Local, National and International levels

Following are our  recent activities and Actions at local, National
and International levels:

a) Here is one of the recent Publication ( 2004) on "Water quality and Health
Status of Kollam (Kerala)"
http://krpcds.org/publication/downloads/56.pdf

(b) Our involvement in Ecological sanitation (GTZ-Ecosan):
www.gtz.de/ecosan/download/Bangalore03-Roy.PDF
www.gtz.de/ecosan/english/publications-conferences.htm

(c) SSHE Symposium 2004 in IRC, The Netherlands
http://www.irc.nl/page/13166
http://www.irc.nl/content/view/full/10969
www.irc.nl/content/view/full/10089

(d) State Co-ordinator :WSSCC-Kerala Chapter
www.wsscc.org/load.cfm?edit_id=528-12k-
WASH in Schools: a holistic approach for school sanitation and hygiene education in Kerala.
www.irc.nl/page/10374-36k-

(e) As a Convener of the 3rd World water Forum in Kyoto, Japan:
www.water-forum3.com/ta/agenda/m16.htm
www.world.water-forum3.com/wwf/SANI-181_SANI-18.doc
www.water-forum3.com/ta/files/2-4.pdf
http://ap.world.water-forum3.com/themeWwf/en/sessionDetail.do?id=59
www.greencrossitalia.it/ita/acqua/risorse_acqua/pop_acqua/pop_acqua001.htm-44k-

(f) 2nd International Symposium on Ecological Sanitation, Lubeck, Germany
www.gtz.de/ecosan/download/ecosan-Symposium-Luebeck-annex.pdf

(g) 2nd ADB Water Week in Manila
www.adb.org/Documents/Events/2004/Water_Week/WW2004_participants.pdf

(h) At the Xth World Water Congress, Melbourne, Australia
www.iwra.siu.edu/melbourne/melbourne6.html
www.icms.com.au/worldwater/session/378.html



(i)A Netherlands Funded project in Kerala
www.krpcds.org/restitle.htm
www.krpcds.org/water.htm

(j) At the Global WASH Forum in Dakar, Senegal - Nov 29 to Dec 3, 2004.
As the State Co-ordinator of the WSSCC-Kerala Chapter, Dr.M.K.P.Roy participated the Global WASH Forum held in Dakar, Senegal and did presentations in various parallel events.   www.wsscc.org
www.irc.nl/redir/content/download/14303/192881/file/EnglishOctober2004.pdf-
www.irc.nl/redir/content/download/14304/192902/file/SpanishOctober2004.pdf-
www.riob.org/transfrontalier/dakar-2004/participants.pdf-

(k). European Social Forum in London: Over exploitation of Groundwater in India by Multi-National Companies – a violation of basic human rights of the poor.
www.freshwateraction.net/library/INDIA.pdf

(l). Post tsunami trauma in India and Sri Lanka:
www.pt.irc.nl/page/15836-19k-

PLANS: What new engagements are planned by your organization to promote a culture of peace and nonviolence in the second half of the Decade (2005-2010)?

Programme 1:
Realisation of Human Rights of the poor women in Tsunami affected Tamil Nadu and Kerala (India).

Programme -2

Overexploitation of Groundwater in India by Multi National Companies: a violation of the basic human rights of the poor.  

           Dr.M.K.P.Roy
Centre for Community Health Research, India
                      E-mail:roycchr@satyam.net.in

The International Year of freshwater in 2003 was celebrated world over in conjunction with the 3rd World water Forum in Kyoto, Japan. It was targeted for doubling the numbers of people with access to safe drinking water by 2015, to mitigate the droughts and flood situation, minimising the degradation of land and water resources, increasing the access to sanitation and water in order to improve human health and reduce infant and child mortality. But in India, there was no notable improvement recorded in the quantity and quality situation of drinking water. Two thirds of the earth’s surface is covered by water but 97.5 percent of this water is saline (oceans and sea) and not fit for drinking and other domestic purposes. Of the remaining 2.5 percent, only 0.5 percent is available for drinking and other domestic as freshwater sources found in rivers, lakes and as underground water.  It was further noted that 40% of world’s population lives areas of acute water scarcity.
UN Population Fund predicts that there will be acute of shortage of freshwater by 2050. About 3 billion people do not have adequate sanitation facilities, and 11,000 children die of water-related diseases every day. In India, one fifth of urban population and three quarters of rural population do not have access to safe drinking water unless there will be no integrated water management strategy.
It was estimated that 1,683 million cubic meters of water flow every year through Indian rivers. While our rivers are dying due to industrial pollution, accumulation of domestic sewage, agricultural runoff, pesticides, sand mining, extraction of water and irrigation etc. Our rivers flowing through the Metropolitan cities like Yamuna in Delhi, Hoogly in Calcatta and Cooum in Chennai are highly polluted and spreading diseases to millions. Water scarcity, pollution and stress are the creations of modern India. In 1951, there were less than 5,000 public tube wells and 10,000 diesel-powered motors and pumps. But today, there are 67,000 public tube wells and 13 to 14 million diesel-powered motors and pumps, increasing at a rate of one million every year. Regular monitoring of groundwater (1996-2003) along the Chennai coast shows an alarming doubling and tripling of salinity levels. Fluoride is contaminating drinking water all over India whereas there is arsenic contamination in the groundwater of West Bengal. The actual problem in India today is the extensive withdrawal of groundwater. The Deccan, Eastern and western parts of India are among the worst water-stressed areas of the world whereas the rest of the country follows close behind. Once water was in abundance in those parts of India- Kerala, West Bengal and Chirrapunje- have developed acute shortage of water due to deforestation, which results in the silting up of rivers, thereby reducing their water-holding capacity. When rains arrive or snows melt, the water spills over and floods adjoining areas, causing as great devastation as a drought.
The advanced technology on drilling and pumping methods have resulted in massive exploitation of ground water mainly for irrigation which is about 85% of the total withdrawal and approximately 15% for industrial and domestic purposes. The area under groundwater has increased from 6.5 million hectors in 1950-51 to about 40 million hectors in 2002-03. Owing to considerable advancement in agricultural and industrial development, it has resulted in increasing the demand of fresh water. The exploration of ground water to meet the increasing demand of rising population from 36 million in 1951 to over 1 billion at present is causing the imbalance between over-withdrawal of ground water and inadequate recharge.  This has resulted in rapid lowering of water table in the region. Over withdrawal along the coastal belts has resulted in saline intrusion into the potable ground water aquifers. ( Ref: R.C. Panda, 2003, 3WWF, Kyoto).
The indiscriminate exploitation of groundwater has changed the hydro-geo-chemical environment of the aquifers and enhanced the toxic and chemical levels of water beyond the permissible limit, mainly fluoride, arsenic, TDS, nitrate etc. The direct health impact on these toxic chemicals in drinking water leading to the manifestation of various water-borne and water-related diseases (Source: Rajiv Gandhi Drinking water Mission, Government of India, 2003) . Government of India has reported that water-borne diseases have serious health implications due to high morbidity and mortality, and with potentiality of epidemics. Further, young children bear maximum of disease burden. India loses every year about 400000 children under 5 years of age mainly due to diarrhoea     (GOI, 2003). Recently, a remarkable observation made by the Central Bureau of Health Intelligence, Government of India is that while the massive investment have been made by the Central and State Governments in India over the last 5 decade, morbidity and mortality due to water borne and water related diseases have not declined proportionately to the extent of increase in the availability of potable water supply.
Water is nature’s free gift to life on earth. It has become a marketable commodity, with extensive withdrawal controlled by unauthorized agencies, and multinationals licensed by the local governments, selling us our own water in bottles. (Ref: New India Express daily, November 2003). A classical example of this situation is found in Palakad district of Kerala. Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Company in Plachimada in Palakad district was established in 2000 March in 14 hectares of mostly multi-cropped agricultural land, barely 2 km from the river Chitturpuzha and in the vicinity of a number of reservoirs and irrigation canals. Within two years of its inauguration, protests became commonplace in front of the unit, as several places in the neighbourhood, including 10 colonies of Dalit and tribal people, began to experience acute water scarcity (Frontline, June 20, 2003). Local people started complaining about the quality of the water in the areas surrounding the plant, and in August 2003 a BBC Radio 4 inquiry found the company guilty of distributing from its unit sludge containing dangerously high levels of the toxic substances.
It was further observed that the functioning of the company in the Perumatty Grama Panchayat area, the drinking water facility available in and around the area within a radius of about 10 kms have been adversely affected and thereby causing serious health hazards to the residents in the area and even preventing use of water, for cultivation of paddy, vegetable etc. The drinking water facilities in the area provided by public authorities are by about 260 bore wells for agriculture and domestic purposes. All the bore wells have become dry on account of the indiscriminate use of ground water by the company.
The Perumatty Panchayat observed that every day about 85 truckloads of products leave the factory. Each lorry is loaded with 550-600 cases. Each case contains 25 bottles. It is estimated that the company in Plachimada manufactures about three lakhs liters of soft drinks. That requires thousands of liters of clean water which is provided from the more than six deep bores sunk within the factory land and from open wells for which the company has not obtained any permission from the Panchayat. The manufacturing process naturally generates large amount of polluted water and chemical waste. The entire area therefore has become contaminated as the soil, water and air, all have been polluted. Farm labourers and other people in the area have started developing rashes and skin problems and some of the women have developed deep dark pigmentation on the outer surface of the palms and fore arms. Some are reported to be painful to the afflicted persons. The company is pumping wastewater into the dry bore wells for disposing of solid waste. The company is collecting the waste material within the company premises causing serious health hazards to the entire locality. Prior to the inspection by the Pollution Control Board, the company was depositing the waste material outside the company premises. During rainy season, this waste material spreads into the paddy fields, canals, and wells, nearby areas causing serious health hazards.
Coca-Cola authorities clarified that poor rainfall was the villain and that the sludge was harmless and was provided only on request to farmers to use it as a "soil conditioner". Kerala State Pollution Control Board carried out an inquiry too found dangerously high levels of cadmium in the sludge, though the concentration of lead was found to be within permissible limits. The company and the State government have so far failed to explain the source of the cadmium-lead contamination. Doubts remain that it is the result of the production or effluent treatment processes in the factory; the pollution of raw groundwater itself could have been caused also by over-exploitation or decades-long use of pesticides for paddy crops (Frontline, August 29, 2003).
The Kerala State Pollution Control Board reported that Coke's bottling plant at Plachimada had indeed been polluting the groundwater and agricultural land in and around its plant and that the existence of carcinogenic contaminants in the waste was confirmed. The Board also instructs the company not to let the sludge out of the factory premises and to stop distribution of the sludge as manure even within the factory premises. The Public Health Department had confirmed that the ground water around the plant in not 'potable'. The Kerala Ground Water Board had confirmed the depletion of the ground water.
The legal battle between the Perumatty village panchayat of Palakkad district in Kerala and Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Private Ltd. entered a new phase recently, with a Single Bench of the Kerala High Court ordering the international soft-drink maker to find alternative water sources for its high production needs and stop overexploiting the groundwater resources of the village.

Postal address of organization

Centre for Community Health Research,
Sadanathil bungalow, Vettikavala, Kottarakara, Kerala- 691 538, India

E-mail address of organization

roycchr@satyam.net.in

Website address of organization


Highest priority action domain of a culture of peace

Human rights

Second priority action domain of a culture of peace

Sustainable development

Highest priority country of action (or international)

India

Second priority country of action (or international)

International
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Organization: Centre for Community Health Research

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