Far from having any impact on the municipality or its officials concerned, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) restraint on Punjab on expenditure of the first installment of funds amounting to Rs 16.13 crores intended for fighting water pollution, has rather taken the officials of the Amritsar Municipal Corporation by surprise as the MC's top brass are unaware of the order.
The order: An order passed by the NGT on July 30 restrains Punjab from expending the first installment of Rs 16.13 crores disbursed by Union Urban Development Ministry for controlling contamination of underground water in the state till it looks into the details of the proposal. The Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) and the MC have been restrained from using the first installment by a bench headed by Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar till further orders of the tribunal.
Bench asks for details: The bench has directed Punjab and MC to furnish complete details about their proposal to utilize the first installment of the funds with the details of the capacity of the project, the time needed for its completion, the estimated cost and factors on which the costs are based. Apart from this, the NGT has also sought details of total sewage produced in Amritsar per day.
Laxity could lead to loss of funds: However, in view of the lax attitude of the MC officials concerned towards important projects, the residents of the city fear that the cash-strapped MC could end up losing these funds if it fails to responds to the directions of the NGT about furnishing the requisite details in time.
Death due to water contamination: The death of 12-year-old Gurpreet Singh, in Kot Mahna Singh area of Amritsar, due to diarrhea caused by consumption of contaminated water in May, had put the spotlight on the issue of contamination of water.
Reasons for contamination: Despite being old and rusty, the water supply pipes in most localities run through dirty drains, for which the MC authorities usually blame residents. In the eventuality of a rupture, the potable water supply mixes with the dirty water, thus causing contamination. Besides this, as per a PGIMER study its potable supply also has immense traces of heavy metals that are harmful to human health and were causing DNA changes among the residents.
Problem prevails in Amritsar and Ludhiana: The issue of supply of contaminated water in Amritsar and Ludhiana had reached before the NGT, who had summoned the authorities concerned of both municipalities for hearing in May this year. Last year, the NGT and had issued a notice to the Union Ministry of Urban Development, which was taken to court following charges of not releasing funs leveled on it by Punjab.
Official Speak: Mayor Bakshi Ram Arora was surprised to hear about the order and said that he was not aware of it. "I am not aware of any such order, nor do I have any knowledge about the issue," he said. Municipal Commissioner Pradeep Sabharwal too expressed his ignorance about the matter. "We have not received any such order so far. Let the order land in our hands. Then we shall see what to do in this regard," he said.
He added that despite being strapped for cash, the MC was doing its best to ensure that the city gets a clean and fresh supply of potable water. "Leakages in the water pipes are plugged and other necessary repairs are made as soon as these are brought to our notice to ensure that the sewage water does not mix with the potable supply," he said.