Authorities not in action mode as polluted water flows into Rajasthan, Punjab channels from Harike barrage
No immediate measures have been initiated by the authorities to check the stinking brackish blushing water flowing from the Harike barrage near here into Rajasthan and Ferozepur feeder canals even after over a decade of the polluted water making its way to agricultural fields and homes, resulting in crop losses and health problems among residents of Punjab and adjoining Rajasthan that receive the water supplied by it.
“So far, no measures have been adopted to tackle the high pollutants into water at Harike headworks. To dilute the pollution affect, water from Ravi river is being released more instead of Satluj river,” according to official sources.
As of now, only collection of samples from Harike headworks is going on and its test report may be expected within 3-4 days, they said.
The Harike barrage, at the confluence of the Beas and Sutlej, channels water into the Indira Gandhi Canal (also known as Rajasthan feeder) which runs 640 kms to the southwest to irrigate some 1.5 million acres (607,000 hectares) of desert in western Rajasthan.
Water from Harikee headworks is also released into Ferozepur feeder canal and subsequently into eastern and Sirhind feeder, which caters areas of Ferozepur, Faridkot, Muktsar and Fazilka districts in Punjab.
According to a recent advisory issued by Punjab Water Resources Department, the water from the barrage has been declared unfit for human consumption and can be used only for irrigation purposes.
“The Bikaner canal gets its water from Harike’s headworks and water is needed for irrigation in parts of Rajasthan. Therefore, we have decided to only send water for irrigation purposes,” the advisory, issued on May 16, said.
Akashdeep Singh, executive engineer, canal regulation, Punjab, said that samples of brackish water were being collected by Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) team and only after receiving their nod, another advisory will be released to allow consumption of water for human use.
Crop losses and health problems
Lalit Sharma, a kinnow grower of Alamgarh village in Abohar, said, “even though the state government has issued advisory to use the brackish water for irrigation, it’s not fit for various crops in general and kinnow in particular.”
Raju Sekhon, another aggrieved farmer of Dharangwala village in Abohar of Fazilka district, said, “polluted water has deteriorated their crops as well as health. The kinnow orchard in the vicinity, which received ‘State Award’ in the past, was badly impacted due to irrigation with brackish water. A number of kinnow farmers have even uprooted their orchards.”
Sekhon said that innumerable textile industries in Ludhiana and canneries in Jalandhar district which are running without any water treatment plant and the sewerage treatment plants of various municipal areas in the vicinity lying incomplete or non-functional are among the major causes of pollution in the water body.
“Government must get a health audit done of inhabitants of the area as innumerable persons are suffering from water prone diseases, including skin infections, while cancer have increased manifold,” said Kuldeep Singh of Shergarh village, located 30 kms away from Abohar.
For Dr. Pritpal Singh, a social activist, the situation has reached a point that demands a crackdown on polluters, including affluent industrialists, who are throwing high degree of pollutants into rivers.
“It’s a man-made disaster and the present brackish water is unfit for human or irrigation purposes due to high presence of pollutants,” he said.
“For years, contaminated water has been supplied from Punjab canals. We have repeatedly raised the issue with Punjab authorities. Punjab needs to find a solution because rivers should not be used as a dumping ground for industrial wastewater and sewage. Their lacklustre attitude to resolve such a vital issue will prove deadly for Rajasthan farmers who need water to do farming on 45 lakh acres of their land,” said Subhash Sehgal, a leader of Rajasthan-based Kisan Sangrash Samiti.
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