National Green Tribunal (NGT) has accepted a case from National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) about the polluting of the Ghaggar river and its tributaries.
The seasonal river originates in the Shivalik hills of Himachal Pradesh and flows through Punjab and Haryana before entering Rajasthan. The NHRC had taken suo-motu cognizance of 2014 media reports about how in Punjab and Haryana, people couldn’t even stand near the foul-smelling river, let alone use its water for irrigation or drinking.
It came out in hearings that the river received civic effluents and factory waste in these states. In April, the NHRC moved the case along with hearing record and orders to the NGT, which on May 3, asked Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh to submit status reports on the polluted Ghaggar.
On May 30, Punjab filed its report, claiming to have built sewage-treatment plants (STPs) to control effluents. Haryana and Himachal Pradesh sought more time to come up with replies, which they now must file by August 8. The NGT also made Chandigarh party to this case on a request from the states and demanded a status report from its administration as well.
The Baltana drain empties sewage and industrial waste from Chandigarh, SAS Nagar, and Panchkula (Haryana) into the Ghaggar. The Central Pollution Control Board claimed in a 2011 report that this Patialadistrict tributary contributed the highest biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) load to the river. The effluent contained untreated waste of both municipalities and factories.
The pollution level in the Jacob drain that joins the Patiala river is also high. Punjab’s report said the construction of STPs in Patialadistrict areas of Rajpura, Patran, Dera Bassi was on to address the issue.
Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) executive engineer concerned RK Nayyar told Hindustan Times that while the two Rajpura STP projects were at an advanced stage, the Patran unit was almost complete. “The situation in Patiala city is almost in control because of these STPs,” he added. Many rivulets and choes bring their surface run-off into the Ghaggar.