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This activist played a monumental role in cases related to environmental issues

By Ekansh Agarwal, Pooja Agarwal, Shubham Tripathi, Sachin Uttarwar, Himani Rathod* 

Rohit Prajapati is an environmentalist and has set up a voluntary organization named Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti, which is a voluntary organization. Rohit calls his organization a people's movement that constantly raises voices against different environmental issues. Rohit believes that environmental problems are not only constrained to preventing pollution and proper disposal of wastes but should be seen holistically. He believes that social activists can never work in isolation and must work with the community to pressure the authorities to take corrective actions, and the only way to work with the community is to raise the issues that benefit the community at large. Hence, he also tries to raise the issue of social importance along with environmental issues.
When asked what he thinks about the current norms and regulations of CPCB and SPCB, he said that the existing standards and regulations are made with many assumptions and presumptions. He said that the current norms are not preventive enough to curtail pollution; they institutionalize the conversion of one form of pollution to another that is harmful to nature.
Rohit played a monumental role in several historical cases related to environmental issues. The case Rohit Prajapati vs. Union of India, Vishwamitri River, Baroda was the first case where the courts clearly defined a river. Rohit also successfully protested the nuclear plant that was being set up in Mithi Virdi. Eventually, the government had to shift the nuclear plant out of Gujarat following the protests. Rohit and his organization have also protested the bullet train initiative of the government.

NOTABLE WORKS

Groundwater contamination in Vadodara

Mr. Rohit Prajapati looked into the matter of groundwater contamination due to poor operation of the Vadodara Effluent Chanel Project and contaminated industrial sites in the Pandra area of Vadodara district and Jambusar area of Bharuch district. He explored several problems like – the VECL Effluent Channel, where the three rounds of monitoring showed that there is a violation of prescribed discharge standards. He also highlighted the issue of leakage and poor groundwater quality where analysis results, as well as physical appearance, showed that groundwater had been contaminated due to mismanagement of industrial effluent. This contamination can even enter the food chain and hence is an area of concern. He further brought forward three contaminated industrial sites - M/s Huntsman International Pvt. Ltd., where the source of contamination is a captive TSDF site on the premises of the unit, and M/s Kiri Dyes and Chemicals Pvt. Ltd., where the concentration of key parameters – COD and color is significantly high in the inlet collection tank indicating internal mishandling and M/s Mayur Dye Chem Intermediates Ltd. groundwater is contaminated due to inefficient treatment or continuous source of contamination.
He went on to recommend several solutions like taking appropriate action against VECL for non-compliance and improper operation, asking them to dismantle the old channel from the Vedach pumping station to J-point and replace it with a closed pipeline, and preparing a Standard Operating Procedure for handling management and disposal of sludge. He further recommended locating the final discharge point of effluent as per the suggestions by NIO and providing OCEM for critical parameters like pH, BOD, COD, etc., and flow at the final level with real-time display.

Mithi Virdi Nuclear Power Plant

The GOI had decided to import six Westinghouse-Toshiba's AP1000 reactors from the USA as a part of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal of 2005. The plan was to set up the Gujarat Nuclear Power Plant in the villages of Mithi Virdi and Jaspara on the coast of the Gulf of Khambhat in Saurashtra.
Right from its inception, the idea was opposed by local communities and prominent environmentalists like Rohit Prajapathi and Krishna Kant. Prajapathi had done a thorough socio-economic study of the communities that would be affected and was vehemently against the nuclear plant in the region.
Environmental experts and activists found serious gaps in the project's EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) report as presented by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL). "The project, if implemented, can lead to national disaster, whose impact will be experienced by people and the eco-system, beyond the borders of Gujarat," said environmentalists Rohit Prajapati, V. Pugazhendi, and V.T. Padmanabhan in their analysis.
They found 24 contentious issues in the way work was done, with proper studies not being done prior to implementation. No drilling was done at the reactor site to ensure that there was a stable continuous rock under the reactor foundation. Additionally, they noted that despite the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests' explicit directive that assessments of the maximum flood level and mitigating techniques be carried out, this was not done. Prajapati also figured out that the authorities hadn't considered the potentially catastrophic impacts of the Kalpsar water reservoir project.
Eventually, the environmentalists were successful in stopping the 6000-Watt nuclear project in the region that could have led to unprecedented destruction.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

As we have seen through the report, Rohit Prajapati relentlessly showcased his dedication to environmental safety for the citizens and maintaining a healthy relationship with nature for a sustainable future. In the entirety going through his contribution to society, we could broadly take away the following learnings Be an Example - Lead by example and practice what you preach. The best way to influence people to change is to show them how to do it. Rohit has been at the forefront of the effort to engage and escalate the issues of environmental damage done by various governmental initiatives. It is taking the lead in important cases that have changed the landscape of future engagements for all the stakeholders keeping the environment at the core of it.
Be Vocal - People listen when you speak up with authority and confidence. The more you keep speaking up, the more they can't ignore you. Rohit has never shied away from putting forward his thoughts and agendas in front of the authority and being vocal in advocating his belief which aligned with the social cause of the matter. Being vocal has proved fruitful in expediating the causes to be resolved or even heard by the respective stakeholders.
Persistent efforts - Rohit chose rational courses of action, but they were also creative (meetings were even organized on cremation grounds to escape the Article 144 order) in how they designed lives, manage commitments, and avoided burnout leading to carrying out projects with persistent efforts for a longer duration thus achieving success.

Annexure: Beautiful Poem penned by Mr. Prajapati personifies and gives voice to the water bodies

I am not a 'Water Body' I am a live being - Rohit Prajapati, 14 August 2017

Somebody referred me as 'Water Body'.
Everybody knowingly / unknowingly remain silent on that.
Anybody could have objected it.
Nobody did. But I and my co-traveler (co-habiting) friends have strong objection.
I never referred live human being as 'Human Body'.
I am not just a flow of water between two banks.
You tried to dry me out. And wherever you couldn't not dry me out you severely polluted me.
You over exploited me and made me a dumping ground of industries and sewage.
I am more than a channel carrying water or affluent.
I am a natural, dynamic, organic part of a larger ecological system.
I am also a network of wetlands, tributaries, floodplains, and ponds spread over my basin and estuaries.
I have my ravines, which along with the soils and vegetation on both sides, natural mechanism to retain the additional water, control floods and provide habitat for various species.
I harbour and interact with innumerable organisms like microbes, plants, and animals.
I am a live being.
I am dreams and despair.
I am poetry and politics.
I am fun and fury.
I am heart and hearth.
I am space and time.
I am you and me.
And, you.
You have encroached upon me and/or contaminated with all kinds of dumped waste materials, including construction debris, municipal and industrial waste, dead carcasses, untreated and inadequately treated sewer water.
I am polluted by governments through their policies and (in) activities are polluting through their waste dumping and sewage.
Why should your treated or untreated effluents be dumped into me? How could you say that treated effluents should be dumped into me?
Will you use treated effluents in your houses or industries?
Will you fill your earthen pot with treated effluents?
Are you taking me for granted as your (personal) disposal (bin) of waste?
Yes, I think you have.
You branded my friends as 'anti-national, anti- development etc.
You have filed defamation cases against my friends.
Your IB department is a regular visitor of my friends.
Intimidation is your weapon against my friends.
You, many a times, referred to me as 'Mata, Mother.'
But I know how you have referred to and behaved with your women.
You have declared war against me and my friends.
I and my friends take this challenge.
Your "war" will be countered by our tenacious struggles.
We both believe in 'Ends and Means'.
Let's not test our patience.

REFERENCES

1) Prajapati, R. (2022, July), Environmentalist (Industrial Pollution)
2) Prajapati, R. (2017, Aug), “I am not a Water Body I am a living being”
3) The Hindu. (2016, August 21). ‘Serious gaps’ in EIA of Mithivirdi nuclear plant. 
---
*IIM Ahmedabad | PGP Batch 2021-2023

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