Upholding the plea of 35 residents of Jeppu Majila (near Valencia), the Dakshina Kannada Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum directed the City Corporation and the Pollution Control Board to pay damages of Rs. 5,000 to each of them, besides stopping seepage of sewage water into their wells.
Failure to rectify the problem within a month would attract additional daily penalty of Rs. 50 each. The corporation has been asked to pay Rs. 5,000 as cost of litigation to the complaints.
It went on to say the officer in-charge of the department concerned was “liable to pay damages to the complainants.”
A clog in the sewage network polluted the wells on the premises of the complainants in May, 2012, affecting the residents who were till then “living peacefully with good atmosphere and health”.
In the absence of proper alternative source of water, they depended on the wells for their daily needs.
With the seepage, the colour of water in wells turned black and it became breeding centre for mosquitoes. Many villagers fell sick and faced serious health hazards, the complainants said. Their pleas for intervention by the corporation and the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) went unheeded though media highlighted the issues. A government laboratory had found the well water in the area unfit for human consumption.
Based on the report by a Court Commissioner appointed by the forum and evidence produced, the forum concluded that the well waters are contaminated because the pipes and manholes are defective.
It found no documentary evidence to show authorities had taken steps address the grievance. “… it clearly shows that the opposite parties do not care for the welfare/ health hazards faced by the complainants. It is the mandated duty of the opposite parties to rectify the defects and enable residents to leave free from any health hazard.”
The forum did not accept the corporation’s contention that the complaints were not consumers. “Opposite parties are bound to provide the services like water, drainable, road…” the forum ruled. Describing the delay in attending to the problem as “disgusting,” the forum said “… (because of the) failure to take proper steps at the right point of time the complainants are put to irreparable loss and hardship…”
Will look into it: Hegde
Mangalore City Corporation Commissioner Ajith Kumar Hegde S. told The Hindu that he was not aware of the order of the forum but promised to look into it. The corporation could file an appeal against it (in the State Consumer Commission), he said.
One of the complainants, B.C. Fernandes, said the corporation had not initiated any action so far to redress the grievance. He said the complainants would serve a notice to the corporation if action was not taken by March 3.