Mumbai: Observing that public health cannot be compromised, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday directed Indian Railways to ensure sewage or untreated water was not used for irrigation and cultivation of vegetables on land along the railway tracks. The HC has asked the general managers of the Railways to personally look into the issue and to ensure its orders are implemented in letter and spirit.
A bench of Chief Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Nitin Jamdar said, “We think the idea behind using surplus land (of Railways) for cultivation is good. But you are bound to ensure that public health is not compromised.” “Therefore, the Railways must ensure none of its licence-holders are permitted to use sewage or untreated water for cultivating vegetables along the railway tracks,” CJ Nandrajog added.
The judges were dealing with a public interest litigation filed by an NGO, which claimed, several people, holding licences to cultivate along the railway tracks in the city, were using sewage and untreated water. The NGO claimed both the Western and Central Railways had permitted several such persons to cultivate along the railway tracks of the suburban rail network.
“All the toxins from such untreated water are being passed on to the vegetables grown on such land. Chemical analysis of some vegetables grown along the tracks have found high levels of lead, arsenic, copper and other metals in them. These metals can have an adverse impact on human health,” the plea had claimed.
The Railways justified its decision to allow such cultivation through its counsel Suresh Kumar. He informed the bench that though the Railways permitted several of its grade C and D employees to cultivate on surplus land, it did not permit them to use contaminated water.