For more than a decade, the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) has been turning a blind eye to the brazen flow of toxic waste into the Ghaggar, which has turned into a drain for industrial units at Dera Bassi and townships along its banks up to Ottu near Sirsa, where it enters Haryana.
Despite various directives of the Supreme Court and National Green Tribunal (NGT), the PPCB and Punjab government have failed to install effluent treatment plants (ETPs) at the outflow of industrial areas and sewage treatment plants (STPs) in 22 major townships along the Ghaggar in Punjab region.
The industrial towns of Mandi Gobindgarh, Dera Bassi and Rajpura remain the key points from where untreated effluents flow into the Ghaggar, as STPs and ETPs are yet to become operational after the commissioning of the projects over two years ago.
Against the required three STPs, Dera Bassi presently has only one, while land for the other two is “being arranged”, stated Punjab’s reply filed in the NGT court on February 10, 2017. The NGT had last year taken suo motu notice of news reports on contamination of the Ghaggar.
Only four of 21 identified towns of Punjab at present have functional STPs, including SAS Nagar, Zirakpur, Banur and Patiala. The towns where the much-awaited STPs are yet to become functional include Patran, Khanauri, Moonak, Lehragaga, Mandi Gobindgarh, Longowal, Sunam, Bhikhi, Bassi Pathana, Sirhind, Sangrur, Nabha, Sanaur and Sardulgarh.
Besides non-availability of land for setting up STPs in many of these towns, a few municipal committees are cash-starved to run these. Patran and Sunam are two such towns where the STPs are yet to get power connections for lack of funds.
AN STP THAT WASN’T
The Punjab local bodies department and PPCB had submitted in their reply that an STP was functional at Sardulgarh in Mansa district. The HT team, however, found that the town’s sewage was still flowing into the Ghaggar. The STP mentioned in the state’s reply was actually a stabilisation pond, a traditional check dam system to segregate solid waste before discharging the effluents into the river.
SAME FATE IN HARYANA
The Ghaggar meets the same fate in Haryana too, where untreated sewage flows unabated into it at as it passes through Ambala, Ambala Cantt, Naraingarh, Kalka, Berara, Kurukshetra, Kaithal, Sirsa and Ratia.
The reply of the Haryana Pollution Control Board, as filed in the NGT in the same case, stated two STPs of total 40 million litres per day (MLD) capacity could not become a reality before March 2019.
‘LITIGATIONS A HURDLE’
PPCB chairman Manpreet Singh Chhatwal cited “litigations and prosecutions” as “one of the hiccups in reforming the system and take effective measures to check river pollution”.
He said the pharmaceutical industry was a major pollutant in the region, and one such unit was also sealed in Dera Bassi cluster, while bank guarantees of two other units were withheld to force the defaulters to fall in line.
Even as certain field officials cited “pressures from above” as obstacles in the board’s functioning, Chhatwal ruled out any political interference.