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The Dirty Side of Ahmedabad

By juliaraewagner

This week, we started working on our country case studies. As the sustainability nerd on board, I immediately signed up to examine the urban environment of Ahmedabad.

While Ahmedabad has a long legacy of industry, in 1992, the city opened up to capitalism in a big way, inviting in foreign industries to settle down by doling out incentives. Soon enough, indsutrial estates sprouted up all over the city, most of which continue to grow today. My group and I decided that we couldn't examine the urban environment without understanding the disposal of waste and pollution.

Our faculty advisors partnered us with some local environmental institutions, and they connected us to some industries around the city. One thing that surprised me about our visits was that all of these factory owners and public officials were open to meeting with us, even on short notice. It may have been the Gujarati tradition of hospitality or simply the fact that the industry barons simply did not feel threatened by a bunch of college students. Whatever the reason, we couldn't help but notice that we were given access to the behind-the-scenes that we would never have experienced in the United States.

First we toured the chemical waste treatment center of the city where all of the industries send their effluent. The city has built a massive pipeline to transport it. Next we traveled to a dye factory where we saw the water going through its primary treatment; the end product, a frothy liquid with an orange hue, certainly didn't seem to be too clean. Finally, we visited the discharge point where all of the water is released into the river. This site as definitely the most striking as the thick, black water exiting the pipes did not serve to convince us that the water was at all fit to drink. Most striking were the agricultural fields sitting on the other side of the river.

It's easy to point fingers and make claims that India simply does not do enough to keep its natural resources safe. What is harder to recognize is that these problems occur all over the world, even in the US. We quickly forget about all of the Superfund sites and chemical spills like the one that happened in West Virginia recently. American industries might be more stealthy about how they handle waste, but our country too has a long legacy of pollution.