In the fields around this giant chemicals factory in Gujarat, the barren soil smells of paint stripper and the water from the well makes you gag. So why has it been given tens of millions of pounds of taxpayer-funded UN ‘green reward points’, which are traded hungrily on the financial markets at huge profit?
June 1, 2009
The farmers, faces wizened and browned from hours in the harsh Gujarati sun, lower a bucket into a well. It’s a solid-brick cylinder 100ft deep. The sun is high in the sky, beating down on the scorched earth. In the baked fields, maize and cotton have been planted. But none of the crops look very healthy. Leaves are wilted and tinged brown. Nothing has been watered for months.
Radha, a tough, sinewy widow and the only female farmer here, says that the well, which draws from deep groundwater, used to adequately supply the village and surrounding farms.
‘We have plenty of water – but water is the problem,’ she says.
As the bucket returns to the top, we can make out a white, almost oily-looking film on the surface of the liquid, which has formed little snowflake shapes.
She scoops up some water and asks us to smell it. It has an odour so acrid it catches in the back of our throats, making us cough.
‘We can’t irrigate our crops with it,’ she says. ‘It’s the water of death. It kills most crops we put it on.’ ‘Gone bad,’ says the man who brought up the pail.
Four years ago, GFL installed technology to reduce the greenhouse gases it produces and was given a vast financial reward by the UN; a UK company was also given considerable sums for investing in the project. However, far from being a flagship green factory, GFL stands accused of poisoning the local environment.
Our own extensive tests by an independent laboratory showed dangerous contaminants in the land and water around the factory – chemicals that match those pollutants produced by GFL. Interviews with the people living nearby reveal their livelihoods and health have been severely affected. We found that the auditors who were supposed to verify the carbon savings were paid for by GFL, a stipulation of the scheme, and they checked only for greenhouse gases, caring little about other pollution.
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