Days after Finance Minister Manpreet Badal announced Rs 4.38 crore in 2019-20 budget to clean Buddha Nullah in Ludhiana, which pollutes river Sutlej — carrying untreated sewage and industrial waste —the Congress government has now brought in Tata Group to “clean and re-use” its water.
In December last year, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh had constituted a Special Task Force (STF) under the supervision of Namdhari sect head Thakur Uday Singh to clean the nullah.
On Thursday, a team from the Tata Group gave a detailed presentation to Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu and Municipal Corporation (MC) officials and “showed interest in beautification and cleaning the stream”.
After the presentation, MP Bittu said that cleaning the 14-km stretch of the nullah is the topmost priority of the government. “The Tata Group officials have already completed a drone survey and have been asked to prepare a detailed project report, for which they will not be charging anything. Once the detailed project report is submitted, other aspects like project cost will be finalised and the work will start,” he claimed, adding that the company has been asked to submit the report by March 10.
The company said that they have already worked on similar river-cleaning projects like river Dravyavati in Jaipur and Badi Nadi and Chhoti Nadi in Patiala. “They will also plant saplings and build tracks for walkers and cyclists in the surrounding area,” claimed MP Bittu.
There have been continuous failed attempts by previous SAD-BJP government for 10 years to clean the Buddha Nullah and the polluted stream remains a top issue during elections – state Assembly and Lok Sabha both.
The state and central governments have already spent crores in past years to clean the stream, but the pollution levels have only increased. Also it is not for first time that a private company has been roped in to clean the stream.
In April 2015, during the SAD-BJP regime, former Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal too had visited Ludhiana and constituted a 15-member high-level committee to clean the Buddha Nullah. Delhi-based company, Engineers India Limited, was hired and even paid Rs 3.34 crore to prepare a detailed project report to clean the stream and assist the state government. But the project never materialised.
In an affidavit submitted in the Punjab and Haryana High Court in September 2010, the then SAD-BJP government claimed that Rs 377 crore were spent since 1990 for cleaning the Buddha Nullah, which included Rs 97 crore on three Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs). However, those STPs are nearly dysfunctional and work below their capacities. Recently, CM Captain Amarinder Singh announced that their capacities will be increased.
In April 2011, former environment and forests minister Jairam Ramesh inaugurated a bioremediation project for Buddha Nullah and bacteria was released near Wallipur to cleanse the stream. The level of pollution was so high that the bacteria failed to grow.
People living in nearby slums and colonies have been complaining of several stomach and skin diseases, including hepatitis.