Groundwater of 3 villages near Bandhwari contaminated, states report
The National Environmental Engineering Research Institute of India (Neeri) has found evidence of groundwater contamination in three villages near the Bandhwari landfill — namely Mangar, Baliawas and Gwal Pahari — according to an interim report dated August 27.
The report lends credence to activists’ claims that contaminants from the landfill are spreading beyond Bandhwari village, where the groundwater was declared unfit for drinking by the Central Pollution Control Board in 2017.
While a final and detailed report is yet to be prepared, water samples collected from 14 locations within a five-kilometre radius of the landfill were “highly contaminated” with pathogenic bacteria and heavy metals, the interim report stated. The contamination, the report points out, is in excess of India’s drinking water quality standards (IS 10500:2012).
Mangar is about 2.5 kilometres from the landfill, Baliawas about 3.5 kilometres and Gwal Pahadi about five kilometres.
In the absence of canal water, the region (with a population of about 25,000 to 30,000 people) is entirely dependent on groundwater for daily sustenance.
The area is also home to a fully occupied condominium — Valley View Estate — residents of which are also reliant on groundwater.
At least three more residential complexes are being developed in the area, which is being marketed as a green space, given its proximity to the Aravallis.
Following an official request by an activist, Vaishali Chandra Rana, a resident of Gwal Pahari, the CPCB in May commissioned a study of the area’s groundwater by Neeri’s environmental impact & risk assessment division.
The findings of this study are at odds with an HSPCB report from August 2018, according to which water samples from the region did not have a major presence of contaminants.
At the time, a subdivisional officer of Gurugram, who collected the samples for testing, had said, “The water is completely safe.”
Kuldeep Singh, regional officer, HSPCB, did not respond to requests for comment.
“All the groundwater, dug well and pond water samples were found to be highly contaminated with respect to bacteriological parameters,” states the Neeri report, a copy of which is with HT.
Among the 14 sampling locations, the concentration of total dissolved solids (TDS) did not comply with the standards at six locations. Total hardness was in excess at nine locations, ammonia was in excess at two locations, nitrates at five locations, and sulphates and chlorides at one location each, the report notes.
As for the presence of heavy metals, “boron was present at 12 locations... The other metals such as lead, iron and total chromium were found higher than the acceptable limit at 6, 4 and 4 locations respectively, whereas manganese, nickel, copper and cadmium at one location only,” the report states.
Interestingly, the report also notes that “samples collected from the village near municipal solid waste landfill site (Manger) has fewer parameters exceeding the drinking water quality standards than the distant villages of Baliawas and Gwal Pahari.”
Rekha Singh, an approved municipal waste expert certified by the Quality Council of India under the ministry of environment, forest and climate change, said, “This observation strongly supports the hypotheses that contamination from the landfill is spreading via the underlying aquifer. From Section 5 of the report, it is clear that metal and bacteriological contamination of the water is due to wastewater leaching from the dumping site (Bandhwari).”
A state agriculture department hydrologist, who is familiar with the hydrology of Gurugram block, said, “Monsoon run-off from the hilly regions of Mangar and Bandhwari feeds an aquifer, which runs all the way from Gwal Pahari in the foothills to the deputy commissioner’s residence in Civil Lines, passing through Ghata, Badshahpur, and sectors 56 and 45. Water reserves in this whole stretch face huge risk from pollutants, which are leaching into the groundwater at Bandhwari. They are surely progressing toward the city.”
Further, a 2017 report on rainwater storage and conservation in Gurugram by the Central Groundwater Board (CGWB) “clearly indicates the presence of fractured and massive quartzite with top weathered soil in Aravalli hills. In alluvial parts of the area (in foothill and plain) there is repetition of sand, clay and kankar layers with top silt deposit.”
These sandy layers, spread from Sector 56 to Civil Lines, facilitate groundwater recharge and allow water to percolate to low-lying areas of Gurugram, the report states.
“Pollution from the source, i.e., the Bandhwari landfill, will certainly find its way down these sandy layers along with the water. The lithological structure of the aquifer, with its soft, clayey soil, keeps the water unconfined, or semi-confined, meaning it is very much on the move,” the state hydrologist explained.
Amit Khatri, the deputy commissioner of Gurugram and the commissioner, Municipal Corporation of Gurugram, has received a copy of the report.
Khatri said, “We will look into the issue and take whatever corrective action is required. We have already taken care of the issue of leachate run-off from the landfill and will take appropriate steps in response to this report as well.”
Residents, however, fear the damage has been done. “Once the groundwater has been polluted, reversal or remediation is extremely challenging. It is reckless to have started a landfill in Bandhwari with no consideration for human health or the area’s hydrology. The authorities need to act and arrest the spread of pollution before it reaches the city, and make alternative arrangements for residents of affected areas,” Chandra said.
“Since the water is highly contaminated bacteriologically as well as by different metals, depending on the locations, it is therefore recommended that the water must be treated for removal of metals and also must be disinfected for pathogens before its use for any domestic purposes,” the Neeri report concludes.
However, the final report will be submitted to the Central Pollution Control Board and the Municipal Corporation of Gurugram, and will also look at air and soil quality in the region, in addition to water.
The report was prepared on Chandra’s complaint and a copy of it was shared by the activist.
Sunil Gulia, a scientist from Neeri, who is overseeing the project, did not respond to calls seeking comment.