Haryana pollution board report says Bandhwari water safe, experts sceptical
The Haryana State Pollution Control Board (HSPCB) has prepared a report on groundwater contamination in the Bandhwari-Mangar region, around 20 km from Gurugram, after samples were collected from five tube wells in the area on July 19. According to the HSPCB, their findings show no cause for alarm.
The report, a copy of which is with Hindustan Times, was filed on the basis of tests conducted on groundwater samples across 17 parameters, which did not detect any presence of contaminants such as oil, grease, iron, nickel, chromium and fluoride. The report also found the level of total dissolved solids (TDS) to be between 380 to 840mg/l (milligrams per litre), and total suspended solids (TSS) to be between 2 to 6mg/l.
The HSPCB report comes over a month after the Hindustan Times ran a report highlighting how groundwater contamination from the Bandhwari landfill is leading to a health scare among the residents of Bandhwari, Mangar, Dera and other villages lying in its vicinity.
Activists, questioned the validity of the report, saying it does not provide any conclusive statement about whether the water is suitable for human consumption.
The HSPCB’s findings are also in stark contrast to a CPCB report from 2017, in which the presence of all the above contaminants were detected. The CPCB found TDS levels to be between 19152 to 20452mg/l, while TSS levels were found to be between 1694 to 2070mg/l. The safe limit for TDS is 2100mg/l, according to the CPCB, and the same for TSS varies between 100 to 600 mg/l, depending on the source of the water.
The CPCB report clearly stated that the groundwater near Bandhwari is not suitable for human consumption.
“How could the concentration of these pollutants have dropped so much since 2017?” questioned environmentalist Vivek Kamboj. Another environmentalist, Vaishali Rana Chandra, wondered why the water samples had not been collected from the same locations as the CPCB had done in 2017. “If the HSPCB was serious about getting to the bottom of the issue, samples should have been collected from those very same spots,” she said, pointing out the lack of scientific rigour in the HSPCB’s process. The CPCB report tested both surface and groundwater samples from eight sources, including borewells in Mangar, Bandhwari and Dera, as well as three different locations within the landfill itself. This selection covered a greater geographic area than the HSPCB, which collected samples from four borewells in proximity to the Gurugram-Faridabad toll plaza.
One explanation for the apparent decline in contaminant concentration was offered by professor AK Gosain of IIT-Delhi’s civil engineering department. “It might be due to dilution from rainwater,” Gosain said.
However, Rekha Singh, an approved environment expert from Quality Council of India (Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change), who conducted an independent survey of groundwater quality in Bandhwari in 2015, called the report incomprehensive, saying that it does not provide context and does not make recommendations or concluding statements.
Moreover, the report does not specify whether the contaminants are within the safe limits as per the CPCB’s water quality standards. “One can conclude it as an invalid report which should not be acceptable anywhere,” Singh said in an email to Hindustan Times.
Jai Bhagwan, the HSPCB’s regional officer in Gurugram, was away on official work and could not be contacted for comments. However, sub-divisional officer Dinesh Yadav, who collected the samples on July, responded to claims questioning the report’s authenticity, saying, “We have carried out the testing as per rules. The water is completely safe.” Yadav added that he was not at liberty to divulge any further details.
The 27-acre garbage dump near Bandhwari, managed by Ecogreen Energy, the MCG’s concessionaire for waste management in Gurugram, currently exists as an unsanitary landfill, and has reportedly been polluting groundwater through run-off and seepage of leachate, which is released by the mounting untreated waste at the dumping site.