The groundwater of south Delhi, Gurgaon and Faridabad may be at risk of fast getting polluted by a big black lake of untreated municipal solid waste in the Aravalli forests formed by leakage of muck from a now defunct waste treatment plant.
The Bandhwari municipal waste treatment plant off the Gurgaon-Faridabad Road, the only one between the two cities, hasn’t been functional for about a year-and-half now. But continued dumping of waste at the plant has led a stream of dirty black water or leachate into the Aravalli forest, polluting the aquifers around.
“If there are no industries in the vicinity, it is evident that the leachate from the plant has already polluted the aquifers around.
Since the waste is not being treated, the leachate may contain several harmful pollutants like nitrates, sulphates and heavy metals,” said Swati Singh Sambyal, senior research associate, waste management team, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). This could spark off intestinal problems, and skin diseases, she said.
“If the contamination of water and the stopping of the treatment plant happened around the same time, there can’t be an excuse that these are not linked,” said Manu Bhatnagar, principal director, natural heritage, Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH).
He pointed out that as the Bandhwari plant is situated at a higher level than that of nearby Gurgaon, Delhi and Faridabad, the contamination may soon spread downhill. A 2008 Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) report reinforces that as groundwater from Bandhwari flows outwards in all directions, it is a major recharge zone for downstream areas in most directions.
Environmentalists say there couldn’t be a worse or faster way of polluting the ground water as the Aravallis have high secondary porosity. This means large quantities of toxic water accumulating there may increase rate of contamination of ground water.
“Contamination of ground water due to waste dumping takes a long time. However, if there is leakage from the plant or waste is dumped outside premises, there are definitely chances of polluting ground water,” said KB Biswas, chairman, Central Ground Water Board (CGWB).
A report by the Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) in 2013 showed that the Bandhwari plant operators violated several provisions of the municipal solid waste rules. “Most of the rules for disposing of solid waste were being violated. On some days of inspection, the plant was not working. We were told that this was because there was no electricity,” said an HSPCB official.
But the more dangerous news is the Gurgaon municipal corporation is planning another 92-acre landfill around the existing plant.
“Before any decision on having a landfill, several legal criteria need to be met regarding the legal standards. The government should also make all information public and seek suggestions,” said Ravi Agarwal, director, Toxics Link, an environmental group.