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Polluted Haryana drains among reasons for high Yamuna ammonia levels: Experts

The committee said in the email, “We have been repeatedly highlighting specific fault lines but we are not sure whether the recommendations of the CPCB and of NEERI given in 2019 have been brought to your notice.”

Written by Shivam Patel | New Delhi |
January 18, 2021 1:44:00 am
Yamuna river, Yamuna bath, holy bath in Yamuna, shahi swan in Yamuna, Hindu seers, Hundu akharas, indian expresshe three seers earlier led a procession of saints to the river bank for 'shahi snan' during which they were showered with flower petals all along the route of the procession. (Express File Photo: Praveen Khanna)

An inspection done by experts from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) in December 2018 largely attributed the high levels of ammonia in river Yamuna reaching Delhi to pollution from drains in Haryana.

On Friday, the National Green Tribunal-appointed Yamuna Monitoring Committee (YMC) shared the findings of this inspection in an email with the new chief secretary of Haryana Vijai Vardhan, who took charge of the post on September 30.

The email was sent ahead of a Supreme Court hearing scheduled on Tuesday on a plea by the Delhi Jal Board (DJB). The plea seeks directions on the state of Haryana to stop discharging pollutants in the river, which is allegedly causing ammonia levels to rise beyond treatable limits and disrupting water supply in the capital.

The committee said in the email, “We have been repeatedly highlighting specific fault lines but we are not sure whether the recommendations of the CPCB and of NEERI given in 2019 have been brought to your notice.”

“This email is to put things in perspective when the matter is reviewed at your level, as the repeated assurances are not leading to any tangible improvement and allegedly creating huge problems in the operation of water treatment plants in Delhi.”

“(The inspection report) remains relevant and is reproduced to put at rest any doubts about the quality of advice given, which is independent and technically sound.”

Experts from CPCB and NEERI were asked by the YMC in December 2018 to identify sources of high ammonia levels in the river between Haryana’s Hathnikund and Delhi’s Wazirabad barrage.

Among the observations made by the inspection team was that water quality of the river begins to deteriorate after Yamuna Nagar and Panipat, downstream of the Hathnikund barrage.

“This shows that Ditch Drain and Drain Number 2 (in Haryana) are the substantial point source of pollution for river Yamuna,” the inspection report states.

The surveyors also recommended construction of a dividing wall between two drains in Sonepat area, as one drain carries freshwater and the other carries industrial and domestic wastewater, which at the time included untreated waste.

Water from the two drains often gets mixed as they are divided by an embankment, which was damaged during the inspection and still remains damaged, as per Haryana and Delhi government officials.

The Haryana irrigation department is now in the process of constructing a closed conduit pipeline in the area to prevent mixing of wastewater and freshwater, and the work is expected to be completed by May 2021.

Moreover, the inspection report noted about the Delhi stretch of the river, “Scattered habitations were sited between Palla to Wazirabad on the floodplain of the river. There is possibility of discharge of wastewater of these habitations to river Yamuna through temporary arrangements like tankers.”

In addition to these issues, the YMC told the chief secretary that Haryana is presently discharging 506 million litres per day (MLD) of untreated sewage into the Yamuna due to incomplete work for diversion of sewage and non-functioning sewage treatment plants (STPs).

The committee said that as a short-term measure, in-situ bioremediation or phytoremediation has to be undertaken in drains to stop untreated effluents going into the river.

The YMC has also asked the CPCB again to identify sources of pollution leading to high levels of ammonia in the river and an inspection is currently underway, as per officials.

“In the case of the Haryana projects, the progress has to be fast-tracked and, in view of the criticality of the situation, the enforcement action has to result in stopping sewage and industrial effluent polluting the river,” the YMC told Vardhan in the email.

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