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16 years on, Kali Bein project up against public, official apathy

With polls approaching, the SAD-BJP govt has renewed efforts to clean rivulet

Written by Anju Agnihotri Chaba | Jalandhar |
July 17, 2016 5:04:17 am
kali bein, kali bein project, polluted water, beas river, jalandhar, punjab news, latest news, india news (Top) Environmentalist Baba Seechewal and his followers clean the Kali Bein at Talwandi Purdal village; a clear section at Sultanpur Lodhi; map showing its flow. (Express Photo)

The Kali Bein rivulet got its name from its waters polluted after years of untreated discharged pumped to it by villages and cities that line its banks as it flows towards the Beas river. Although a project that started exactly 16 years ago promised much, it has seen mixed results.

Now, with elections round the corner, the government is renewing its efforts to clean the rivulet.

The tributary begins its journey from Mukerian Hydel project in Hoshiarpur district, cuts through four districts and meets the Beas river at Haike Pattan in Tarn Taran district.

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In July 2000, environmentalist Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal began a massive exercise to clean the rivulet. Without government help, Seechewal and his followers removed weed, treated water and spread awareness among residents. Six years’ of the group’s efforts paid off when then President A P J Abdul Kalam visited the site and heaped praise on their effort. The then Congress government in Punjab too got on the bandwagon and announced that it would take up the project to stop discharge of untreated water into the rivulet.

The “Kali Bein Model” soon became the blueprint for cleaning the mighty Ganga under the National Mission for Clean Ganga under the Modi government. Recently, Delhi too adopted the model to clean the Yamuna.

The project required every village to have a large pond to collect sewage water from its households. A water treatment plant would then treat the water and use it for irrigation. While many villages in the area have made a conscience effort to improve the state of the river, others have not been as successful.

The Sunday Express visited around 40 villages along the rivulet’s banks and saw illegal colonies discharging untreated water into the water body.

“In our village the land for the pond has been encroached by an Akali leader,” said Gurtej Singh, Talwara village sarpanch. “We had filed a case with the DC and hope it is resolved soon.”

When The Sunday Express contacted Talwandi Purdal village’s sarpanch Surinder Kaur, her husband answered, “We don’t need it” before cutting the call.

“In our village, the government laid pipes but then that was it,” said Devinder Singh, sarpanch of Pul Pukhata village. “What’s worse is that they have not repaired the roads after digging it up to lay the pipes.”

“In some villages, the people are not co-operating,” said a rural development officer on condition of anonymity. “If the government wants, it can do all this easily but the government is lazy.”

As for Seechewal, who is now a member of the state pollution watchdog, he had this to say: “Many sewage treatment plants are not working. I had given instructions to book erring officials and even talked to the Chief Minister about this.”

A sewerage board department official said that these plants require funds. “But the government has nothing to spare for this,” he said.

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