With the state’s groundwater contaminated, not only by general pollutants but also with heavy metals and radioactive uranium, the Punjab government has decided to turn to canals for potable water. The state government has chosen Moga and Barnala districts for a Rs 300-crore pilot project, under which, water from canals would be purified at treatment plants before being supplied to residents.
A conventional water treatment plant involving aeration, rapid mixing, flocculation, sedimentation, rapid sand filtration followed by chlorination has been recommended under the project; the funds would be used from the Punjab Rural Water Sanitation Sector Improvement Project, which is backed by the World Bank.
Moga and Barnala have been chosen for the pilot project as a feasibility study covering six districts — Moga, Barnala, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur and Sangrur — found that in a pocket of Moga district, a whopping 98 per cent of villages (83 of the 85 villages) had contaminated ground water. Among the affected villages, 24 of them had heavy metals in their water while there was presence of uranium in 44 of the villages. In Barnala, 35 of 36 villages in a part of the district were found to have been affected by ground water contamination.
The feasibility study was conducted by the global consultancy Mott Macdonald Limited.
Under the pilot project, four acres of land has been earmarked to provide canal water to the residents of all 85 villages in the Moga pocket. The water would be drawn from the Abohar Branch canal at the Daodhar village in Moga-I block. It would then been carried to a treatment plant with a capacity of 50 million litre per day, which will come up. The study has also suggested two more tapping points in Moga district for 218 villages. The water for the project in Barnala would be drawn from the Bathinda Branch canal.
An official told The Indian Express that the tender for the pilot project was likely to be floated in September and work was likely to begin in November. “Though reverse osmosis systems are in place across the state for water purification, the state government has decided to supply canal water to residents which unlike ground water is free from contaminants like uranium and needs to be simply purified in water treatment plants,” the official added.