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Oil sludge destroys crop, Barmer farmers protest

Aug 13, 2010 10:09 PM IST India India

Barmer: Even as Mumbai is coping with the oil spill, farmers in Rajasthan's Barmer are grappling with an oil sludge from a processing factory that has been ruining their crops.

Aslah Ram is devastated as he gazes upon his ruined crop of millet, sesame and moong. His farm stead in flood-hit Barmer lies right next to Cairn Energy's Mangala Petroleum Processing Terminal.

With the rain water causing a fence to collapse the oil sludge has flown into fields that belong to people like Ram and has virtually destroyed their entire crop.

The damage to the fertile soil is almost irreparable. Ram doesn't know how he will feed his family and his livestock.

"All of this (oil) has come into my fields destroying the crop with toxic chemical. Even our cattle are dying due to lack of fodder. We don't know what to do," says Ram.

The devastation is all the more painful, as the farmers were expecting a bumper crop. The Mangala terminal is one of the largest in the country, processing 1.20 lakh barrels of oil per day. Upset farmers are now staging protests in front of it, demanding compensation and proper disposal of toxic waste.

"We should be compensated for the damages and they should make arrangements for proper drainage of oil sludge," demands another farmer Vishna Ram.

But Cairn Energy maintains the toxic spill happened, because the heavy rain washed away the soil under the storage wells. A committee set up to assess the damage, is yet to submit its report. But for the farmers the incident is a hard blow which could take years to overcome.