Ghaggar, a ‘drain’ of toxic effluents for villages of Punjab and Haryana | punjab | Hindustan Times
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Ghaggar, a ‘drain’ of toxic effluents for villages of Punjab and Haryana

Over two dozen villages in the adjoining districts of Mansa in Punjab and Sirsa in Haryana share a common drain of toxic effluents — the ‘nullah’ that was once the mighty Ghaggar river, three decades ago. “Oh, you are asking about the

punjab Updated: Apr 09, 2017 11:47 IST
Prabhjit Singh
Ghaggar river in Sardulgarh town of Mansa district.
Ghaggar river in Sardulgarh town of Mansa district.(Sanjeev Kumar/HT photo)

Over two dozen villages in the adjoining districts of Mansa in Punjab and Sirsa in Haryana share a common drain of toxic effluents — the ‘nullah’ that was once the mighty Ghaggar river, three decades ago. “Oh, you are asking about the nullah!” said a blood cancerstricken man at Bhunder village on being asked how the Ghaggar had changed their lives.

Young boys in the street giggled while explaining that the river was now a drain. They laughed in making a point that their grandfathers had learnt swimming in that very “drain”, back when it was a river.

Bhunder village of senior Akali leader and Rajya Sabha member Balwinder Singh Bhunder, is situated on the east bank of the Ghaggar. Bhunder is also a village that is home to several hepatitis B and C cases, along with some cancer patients.

‘INDUSTRIAL CURSE’

The villagers curse the ‘industry’ — “This is all poisoned water coming from the industry upstream of Ghaggar near Chandigarh.” Ghaggar, from a bridge in Sardulgarh town, some 10 kilometre upstream Bhunder, gives a view of a huge drain.

Additionally, the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) level of Ghaggar has crossed the 24 mark in these villages.

To put this number in perspective, the maximum prescribed limit for fish to survive is 6 BOD, while it should be less than 4 BOD for humans.

Other villages in the Sardulgarh sub-division of Mansa district, where the groundwater is not potable, include Bhagwanpur Hingna, Lohgarh, Ranjitcrosses garh Vandran, Bern, Kalipur Dumm, Bhallanwala, Aluhpur, Kauriwada, Merpur Kalan Meerpur Khurd, Phoos Mandi, Sadhuwala, Bhunder Kahnewala, Rorki and Jhanda Khurd.

Panchayat members of Ranga village with a memorandum seeking access to a canal in another village for potable water. (Sanjeev Kumar/HT Photo)

“Every night, we need to shut our doors tight due to the foul smell emanating from the nullah. The smell intensifies in the night hours and make our life miserable,” said Sukhpal Kaur in Phoos Mandi village.

“The pain in my stomach was killing and my legs were too weak to stand,” said a woman at

‘bazigar basti’ in Phoos Mandi, a village that has its own sad tale of patients spending lakhs of rupees on injections to get treated of hepatitis C and other diseases. They, too, curse the “erstwhile river”.

Sukhpal counted that she had been injected 48 times with various medicines after suffering from hepatitis C two years ago. Sukhpal’s brother-in-law Balwant Ram contracted malaria and then hepatitis B.

He further counted over 100 families having a patient each in the village.

At Ranga village located on the Ghaggar bank in Sirsa district of Haryana, two hepatitis patients waited to board a bus so that they could go fetch their medicine. They complained of dehydration and skin ailments as common among villagers there. The village is starving for canal water as its existing water works now pump out contaminated groundwater.

Other such Haryana villages located on the Ghaggar include Mattar, Mar, Saharna, Beera Baddi and Mall Wala as the blackened Ghaggar crissthe two states. A registered medical practitioner (RMP) doctor in Mattar counted seven hepatitis patients in that village.

MEDICAL CAMP BY ‘PRAYAS’

‘Prayas’, a non-government organisation (NGO) in Sardulgarh had conducted a medical camp in 20 villages of Sardulgarh sub-division in 2014 and had detected 533 people suffering from different forms of hepatitis and malaria, catching the attention of the health authorities.

“Many patients were caught unawares. The high incidence of hepatitis C could be attributed to the casual use of syringes as well as infested medical equipment at the hands of RMP doctors or in private clinics of Sardulgarh town,” said Pardeep Kumar Uppal, who runs the NGO.