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VALSAD: The fruit basket of Gujarat

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DQW Bureau
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With 90 percent of the population of Valsad involved in agricul-ture it's not surprising that IT hasn’t been pushed or grown to its maximum potential. How-ever Valsad Association of Information Technology Com-panies (VAITCOM) is determi-ned to change this image and tap Valsad’s potential.

Valsad is located at the south of Gujarat and has also been the fruit basket of Gujarat. This is mainly because it has been blessed with a good rainfall and therefore, remains a significant producer of mangoes, guavas, chikoos and coconuts. Irrigated agriculture has a long history in this region and farmers of late have converted to cash crops such as sugarcane. 

Given its proximity to the Arabian Sea and the fact that five perennial rivers empty into the sea within the region, Valsad has also been home to tens of thousands of people, most of whom are dependent on marine and riparian resour-ces for a living. 


However, the industrial boom in the late 1960s has tran-sformed the region from an area of pristine beauty and self-sufficient communities to an industrial wasteland. The Vapi Industrial Estate was setup in 1967 to absorb the industrial investment from the neigh-boring Mumbai. Today, this estate has more than 1,950 ind-ustries in 1,117 hectares of land. 

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Vapi in Valsad district, has a lot of factories, of which roughly 450 are categorised as polluting industries, 50 paper mills, 60 dye intermediate producing units, 200 dye industries, 100 pharmaceutical factories, 25 textile dyeing units and 10 pesticide plants. In the absence of any infrastructure to safely and adequately contain and dispose the wastes generated in the estate, factories have made it common practice to discharge their toxic effluents into rivers, creeks, streams and open land, and dump their hazardous solid wastes on public land or within the estate. 

Infact, the Vapi Industrial Association has allowed its members to dump waste within the estate. These practices have seriously compromised the quality of life of communities in the district, and damaged the life support system–the water, the land and the air. 

Apart from the pollution load placed by the industries on the environmental, the sheer mag-nitude of water used by the ind-ustries has robbed other water users of their fundamental right to clean water. According to the Central Pollution Control Board, Valsad district has at least 17 medium and large scale paper and pulp mills. These are highly water intensive, and they dis-charge their wastes into the ne-arby rivers, Kolak, Damaganga or Par. 

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That the industrial mode of development in Vapi has igno-red local priorities, is evident from statements made by local villagers that the state has virtually handed over common resources such as water to industries. Even on contacting IT trade members from Valsad, they shared the same opinion. The politicians have limited a lot of growth in this region. Due to these mis-managements, localites have reported a signi-ficant loss in industries like horticulture and farming. 

The claims of the villagers are consistent with evolving scientific evidence that pollu-tants of the kind that are known to be released by Vapi’s factories can have long term population level effects on fisheries. Take pulp mill effluents, for instance, Bumison et al report that pulp mill effluents comprise myriad chemicals that have the pote-ntial to cause deleterious effe-cts on aquatic biota in receiving waters. 

Some reports indicate that the pollution has affected even the lifestyle and recrea-tion of the nearby communi-ties. Swimming was a regular event during the festivals, but these celebrations have now closed. 

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Although unquantified, there is little doubt that the pollution intensive develop-ment model adopted in Vapi has actually led to an overall decline in productivity of the region. A 1996 study by thc World Bank found that, even with very conservative estima-tes, the annual losses due to pollution and other forms of environmental degradation were the same as the annual rate of growth of GDP for India. In effect, losses due to environ-mental degradation are nulli-fying the annual economic growth for India. 

There are also adivasi deve-lopment programmes going on in Gujarat. The programme has been under implementation with grant support from KfW, Germany, since 1994-95 in Dharampur Taluka of Valsad district through BAIF Develop-ment Research Foundation, Pune. The focus is on develop-ment of wadi (small orchard), while other supportive interven-tions viz, water resource development, agriculture deve-lopment, women development, health and sanitation are also addressed. Small and marginal farmers, including women, are selected under the programme. The landless are supported by providing them micro-enter-prises in farm and non-farm sectors and employment opportunities in processing units. The establishment of village level people’s organisa-tions (POs) called Village Ayojan Samitis (VAS) have been the strongest tool and nuclei for planning and implementation of the programme. The progra-mme has been a great success in converting 11,900 acre waste-lands into orchards of cashew, mango and forestry plants by 12,000 adivasi families from 161 villages. 

Gujarat has also been the focus for industrial develop-ment with Ahmedabad contain-ing 23 percent of the total working factories. Other indus-trially developed districts in the state are Valsad (11 percent), Vadodara (11 percent), Rajkot (8 percent), Mehsana (six per-cent), Bharuch (five percent), and Kheda (five percent). Industrial development in the state has been characterized by the development of Ahmeda-bad-Vadodara-Bharuch-Surat-Valsad axis, the so-called golden corridor. 

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IT business is slowly picking up in Valsad and there is also an association called Valsad Association of Information Technology Companies (VAIT-COM). Recently, the association also formed part of National Association of Channel of Information Technology (NAC-IT). There are twenty-five asso-ciations across India part of this association. 

Even VAITCOM has big plans for this small city especially increasing 1activities for cha-nnel partners and also improvi-sing infrastructure. The associa-tion is looking at holding its IT expo every year, which was held every alternate year previously.

The association has been established since few years but has not been active. Many of the channel members added that this was mainly because the low interest levels among the members. Like other asso-ciations based in the Western region VAITCOM also has plans to set up an office of its own and expand on its infrastructure in the future. Infact the asso-ciation is all set to launch its website called

www.vaitcom.org.

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The association is also set to conduct its printer training programmes along with Epson. VAITCOM is concentrating on education primarily for channel partners. The president also has plans on increasing busi-ness for Valsad members by pooling enquiries at one place like the website. This would control a lot of undercutting in the business, which is again common in this city. The asso-ciation plans to do this by first increasing awareness of the new website by advertising in local newspapers.

This would encourage sales only through the members of the associa-tion. In small towns, there are a lot of fly by night operators

and therefore, this should be controlled.

some resellers>>>>>>

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