While farmers in flood-hit areas of Shahkot and Sultanpur Lodhi are complaining about Chitti Bein, a rivulet, and Kala Sanghia drain polluting groundwater, countless villages on the banks of these two water-bodies have been using black water from these two sources to irrigate their crops.
The black water in these streams is highly toxic due to industrial waste and untreated sewage being dumped in them, and it is being used for irrigation right under the nose of the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB).
“Around 200 villages are located on the banks of Kala Sanghia drain which starts from Jalandhar city and goes till Shahkot (Jalandhar district), where it flows into the Chitti Bein, which further flows into Sutlej river,” said Baldev Pritam Singh, a social worker and patron of a committee of 200 villages affected due to drain water.
Chitti Bein, which starts from Hoshiarpur and then moves around over 400 villages in Nawanshahr, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar and Kapurthala, ultimately flows into Sutlej near Shakot constituency.
A trip along these streams revealed that farmers in majority of villages along the banks have directly put pipes in these polluted water sources, which are slushy, black and stinking. Further, small motors are placed along these pipes to lift water to the fields.
Chief Agriculture Officer (CAO) Jlandhar, Nazar Singh told The Indian Express that using untreated water of Chitti Bein and Kala Sanghia drain is highly dangerous for crops and ground water as these carry several heavy metals like lead, arsenic, chromium, cadmium etc. and farmers should resist using it.
“I will get it checked from my staff,” he said, adding that both streams must be stopped flowing into Sutlej because these are polluting river water which is even used for drinking purpose in Malwa region and in Rajasthan through canal system.
Daljit Singh of Jamsher village uses water from the Chitti Bein to irrigate his land. “This water is good for the crop as it gives me a good yield. I am not aware about anything else,” he said.
Ram Singh, a migrant labourer in Jamsher village who was using this polluted water to irrigate the land he was working on, said he had taken land on rent to grow vegetable. He added that as there was no tubewell on the land, he started lifting water from the Bein through a pipeline and a motor.
At the Jamsher dairy complex, hundreds of cattle depend on this water from the Bein for drinking. It is the same story in villages along the Kala Sanghia drain.
“I have been using this water because our area’s ground water is also contaminated due to Kala Sanghia drain’s highly polluted water. Lifting water from the drain is quite easy,” said a farmer from Gazipur village. In Nahlan village, cattle at the local dairies are given this water for drinking.
PPCB member and environmentalist Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal said, “Despite a 150 MLD (million litres a day) sewer water treatment plant at Pholriwal, 50 MLD plant at Basti Peer Dad and 6.5 MLD ‘Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP)’ in the leather complex, untreated sewage, industrial affluents were being released in Bein and the drain, respectively”.
“I myself took PPCB teams to all these spots and even to the villages where people are suffering from skin, stomach, cancer, hair, nail diseases due to contaminated groundwater,” he added.
Sub-Divisional Soil Conservation Officer, Jalandhar, Lupinder Kumar, said that BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) is crossing more than the double rate in the waters of Chitti Bein and Kala Sanghia drain and usage of this water was ‘unhealthy’ for human and cattle health.
PPCB XEN (Executive Officer), Jalandhar, Arun Kakkar said that they have taken strict action against the leather complex for not running the treatment plant up to its capacity. “We have also filed a case against them,” he said. About the sewer treatment plant at Pholriwal not working, he said that the matter had been taken up with the Jalandhar corporation.
About farmers using the water for irrigation, Kakkar said it is the drainage department’s work to stop farmers from doing so.