Beluha river of Malda polluted by nearby paper mills

The 8,000 people of Malda district in West Bengal, have their daily life and local economy disrupted by Behula river's toxic waters. The lifeline of villages like Jalangi and Molpur, Behula has been dying a slow, poisonous death due to the paper mills at its banks. "The waters are so polluted, that the river has no fish anymore," says Soriya Banu, Malda community's correspondent. Women and children of the community approached Soriya for help since she has reported on many issues of the area in the past, and has been able to bring about change through community engagement.

The miscreant behind the havoc, according to the community members is one Rampal Paper Mills Ltd. The river is polluted by the waste-water of a paper mill which does not have proper infrastructure to purify the wastewater. Several toxic chemicals are used in the production process, especially toxic solvents and chlorine compounds used to bleach and delignify pulp which is released in water. The waste water also contains solids, nutrients and dissolved organic matter such as lignin as well as transition metal compounds such as lead.

The main occupation of the region is farming. The farms fed by this polluted river water kill the crops, leaving farmers helpless as their crops don't sell in the market at the market rates. The residents can't use the water for any purpose, like cooking, bathing, or catching fish, the region's staple diet.

In the past, the late Sailen Sarkar, at the time, environment minister of West Bengal had raised the issue of paper mills polluting Behula, but since then, not much as changed for the good. The residents have made several complaints to the local administration about the increasing pollution, but the authorities have continued to look the other way, while the river slowly vanishes from the people's lives.

Soriya herself visited the District Magistrate and the engineer of district's pollution control department who refused to answer her inquiries. The Block Agricultural Officer Mr. Nabendu Basak was not very forthcoming with a solution either.

Can a paper-mill be deemed more important than the health and occupation of the 8,000 residents who stay by the Behula river? The complaints against Rampal Paper Mills should be investigated. Call the District Magistrate, Sarat Kumar Dwivedi +91-3512252381 and demand that an investigation should be carried out and corrective actions should be taken against the paper mill.

This video was made by a Video Volunteers Community Correspondent Soriya Banu.

Community Correspondents come from marginalized communities in India and produce videos on unreported stories. These stories are ’news by those who live it.’ They give the hyperlocal context to global human rights and development challenges. See more such videos at
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