The turning of Buddha Dariya into Buddha Nullah, from a river to sewer, is the story of Ludhiana's transformation into an overflowing polluted centre after three decades of industrialisation.
In the absence of using the barriers of Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Cess Act, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, Environment Protection Act, and Public Liability Insurance Act, the industrialisation wave took its toll on the city's environment.
The world's fourth most-polluted city in 2011 and now sixth on this scale in the country, Ludhiana has attracted a union ministry of environment ban on new industrial development. For failing to act against polluting factories, the government agencies such as Punjab State Industrial Exports Corporation (PSIEC), Punjab State Industrial Development Corporation (PSIDC), and Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) should take the blame, and so should its residents, who have ignored their duty.
Industrial expansion flooded the city with workforce from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan, which took up jobs in the bicycle, knitwear, electroplating, automobile parts and dyeing units. With no provision of housing, the migrants developed own dwellings called "vehras", urban slums, across the city.
Of the 262 dyeing units in Ludhiana, 10 industries are large and the rest medium. The factories at Tajpur Road, Rahon Road, Focal Point, and Industrial Area-A have captive effluent-treatment plants but non-transparent treatment procedures.
Of the 675 electroplating units, most empty their toxic wastewater into the Buddha Nullah, adding to the waste that households toss into the drain. As a result, the "dariya" turned into a "nullah", running through Ludhiana from east to west, originating from Koom Kalan and joining the Sutlej river at Wallipur Kalan.
The construction of dams in the past 15 years first reduced and then stopped the fresh water inflow into the nullah from the Sutlej. The sewage, slush and industrial effluents still released into the drain accumulated.
The PPCB data shows Tajpur Road, Sunder Nagar, New Madhopuri, Basti Jodhewal, Shivpuri, Chander
Nagar and Vishnu Puri to be worst-affected residential areas. Most are along the nullah. Industrial Area-A, Cheema Chowk, and Manju Cinema mixed-land-use zones have high air pollution. The Sherpur Chowk industrial units have contributed to the worsening of traffic and roads.
Air and noise pollution
Environmental law violation, bad roads, incomplete flyovers, emissions from outdated auto-rickshaws and the burning of crop stubble have destroyed the ambient air quality of Ludhiana. The city is among the four most polluted in the world in terms of respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) in the atmosphere.
Ludhiana has more industries and vehicles than any other city in Punjab but don't be jealous. Its residents breathe an air rich in toxic gases such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and mercury. The result is respiratory disorders.
The noise recorded in some areas of Ludhiana is 104 decibels, almost the sound of thunderstorm. It is enough to cause permanent deafness, and harm foetuses, animals and crop.
Even after 46 years, sewerage facility is unavailable to 100% of the population. The municipal corporation has 30-year contract with A to Z for the collection, disposal and treatment of solid waste. For two years, the company has been collecting garbage from 62 wards but the treatment of it remains a dream. The delay in shifting dairies out also has contributed to the problem.