Days after an incident of molasses spilling into river Beas from a sugar mill in Gurdaspur raised concerns over water pollution in Punjab, a video of two men throwing sacks of ash in Doraha canal (First Patiala feeder) under Doraha bridge in Ludhiana district went viral on Sunday, leading to an uproar.
The video, made by an unidentified person, shows two men emptying at least four bags of jet black ash and other waste into the Doraha canal, with the water turning black instantly. The video was reportedly shot on Saturday.
When asked by the cameraman to explain the logic behind disposing of the waste in the canal, one of the two men tells him to turn off the camera. The other person says, “Tussi mere tey minister ni lagge puchhan layi (You are not a minister here to question us).”
The two people apparently came to dispose of the waste on a Honda Amaze. Authorities said the duo were brothers – Rajeev Jain and Sanjeev Jain – and hailed from Barewal in Ludhiana. Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) chairman Kahan Singh Pannu said the men have submitted a written apology, claiming that the waste was ‘hawan samagri and raakh’ (ashes and remains) and they disposed it in the canal on advice by the priest.
GS Gill, environmental engineer, PPCB (Ludhiana) said, he would write to the Irrigation and Canal department on Monday to initiate action against the brothers. “It was not industrial waste so PPCB cannot take action,” Gill said.
However, Ludhiana deputy commissioner Pardeep Aggarwal and locals expressed doubts over the waste being ‘hawan samagri’. “The way they came to city outskirts to dispose it and that too in 4-5 bags, we doubt if it was hawan samagri. Also, the water turned jet black instantly. It might be some chemicals or toxic materials. Which hawan produces ash in such huge quantity? A proper enquiry is needed,” said Harpreet Soin of NGO ‘Ludhiana Cares’.
Several other residents said PPCB and district administration could not let go of the offenders without punishment. “Religious practices cannot be a reason to pollute water bodies. Punjab rivers, once known for their purity and cleanliness, are now becoming garbage dumps. A written apology cannot be sufficient for such a damage, which is irreversible,” said Maneet Dewan, who filed a complaint with PPCB.
Ludhiana deputy commissioner Pardeep Aggarwal said an investigation was on to corroborate the brothers’ claims if the waste was actually ash. “We can’t believe their claims without a probe. Maybe it was some industrial waste. We will be checking their industries and if it releases any chemical waste. If yes, then PPCB will take action. Otherwise, Irrigation and Canals department will do so. They cannot be let off with a written apology,” he said.
SSP (Khanna) Navjot Mahal said a written complaint had been received from the Irrigation department. “We will be registering a report on the basis of which department can file a civil suit in the court,” he said.