Feature image showing drain number 6 with industrial pollution running along drain number 8 which carries raw water for potable water supply to Delhi. The over spill in drain number 6 is plugged with sand bags. Image by author, May 11, 2019
Role of Drain Number 8
About 300 cusec of water is supplied to Delhi via Drain Number (DN) 8. The drain branches off from Western Yamuna Canal (WYC) near Garhi Bindroli village in Sonipat. The total length of the drain is about 25 km. It carries Delhi’s share of water and discharges it into River Yamuna at Palla, where the river enters Delhi territory.
The water then flows 21 km downstream up to Wazirabad barrage where it is treated at Wazirabad Treatment Plant (WTP). This plant also supplies water to New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) areas which includes President House, Parliament areas among other prominent VIP residential units.
About Drain Number 6
Things seem alright until another drain namely Drain Number (DN) 6 intersect it, about 5 km downstream form the point where DN 8 takes off from WYC. The total length of the DN 6 is about 43 km. It carries industrial and domestic effluents from a large area of Sonipat district and Smallkha block in Panipat.
People in the know also reveal that effluents Sewage Treatment Plant (STP), Sonipat and Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP), Rai also reaches DN 6. In fact the Sonipat STP is located close to the drain while Rai CETP is about 3 km away. The capacity of STP is upgraded to 30 Million Litre per Day (MLD), while the capacity of Rai CETP is 4 MLD.
Why Both Drains Running Parallel?
It is highly questionable as to why the remaining part of DN 6 from intersection point is created inside DN 8. For about 10km both drain runs parallel. The 10km stretch of DN 6 created inside DN 8, in fact is divided into two parts. First for about first 8 km stretch, it carries the polluted waste water from Sonipat and Panipat districts.
Next about 2 km section of it takes industrial effluents from Kundli industrial area running opposite to the flow of DN 8. Actually the outlet of 4 MLD, Kundli CETP is starting point of second 2 km stretch of DN 6. The sole purpose behind constructing this second part seems disposal of industrial effluents from Kundli industrial area. Both sections meet at Shivpuri colony, Sonipat and then gets diverted into Narela drain. The effluents then reaches to supplementary drain and finally into Yamuna via Najafgarh drain at Signature Bridge.
Moreover upstream stretch of DN 8 from WYC is filled with polluted water drained out from vast catchment area spreading upto Gohana block. Though there is a barrage yet it seems polluted water is released in DN 8 right at the location it intersects WYC.
Breaches; Over-spills Inevitable
The DN 6 was created around 2005. Apparently a 9 inch wide wall separates both the drains. There have been umpteen occasions when DN 6 spills over or breaches contaminating Delhi’s potable water supply. During monsoon the intermingling is more frequent and seems inevitable. Even accidental or intentional excess discharges in DN 8 leads to mixing of raw water with toxic contaminants.
Sand Bags To Prevent Contamination
Plugging the breaches and over-spills with sand bags has become the standard practice of the irrigation department, Haryana. DN 6 is also silted up that has hugely reduced its capacity. At Shivpuri colony it is filled with solid waste blocking its flow. Siltation and solid waste accumulation are also reasons leading to spill over and breach.
Honey Suckers Illegally Dumping Sewage into DN 6
Apart from industrial effluents and domestic sewage, honey suckers (bringing human excreta from soak pit latrines) are also seen discharging raw sewage into DN 6. On May 11, 2019 one such tankers was caught in the act out side Nathupur village. As per the driver of the tanker, the waste was collected from Bahalgarh area in Sonipat. He also said that the owner of tanker was charging Rs. 7000 per trip for the service. It was also revealed that during previous trip the tractor had fallen off the embankment damaging it significantly. The damaged portion area can increase during rainy season raising threat to safety of the structure.
The officials in concerned government department were unaware of this violation. When contacted Ashwani Kumar, in charge of Water Supply Division, Rai said that he had no information about honey suckers dumping sewage in DN 6 and resultant damage to the embankments. “We keep issuing notices asking villagers not to indulge in activities affecting the safety of embankment. We will look into the matter and take appropriate actions”, stated Ashwani Kumar.
Several villages in Sonipat are not connected with sewer lines. Deployment of tankers to empty the sewage pits is prevalent practice. The service providers generally release the sewage in roadside pits or drains. DN 6 has become one such location.
Balraj Singh Ahlawat, Regional Official (R.O.) State Pollution Control Board (SPCB), Haryana accepted that the practice is illegal and acknowledged that growing problem still remains unaddressed by state government. “Ideally the sewage should be taken to nearby STPs for treatment, but the tankers may be turned away as there is no provision to deal with the issue”, said Balraj Singh Ahlawat.
Toxic Industrial Pollutants Posing Bigger Threat
The industries located in Rai and Kundli industrial belt includes leather, fertilizers, die, pickle, pharmaceuticals and other toxic waste generating industries. The CETPs and STPs in catchment of these drains are working inefficiently and occasionally releasing toxic effluents into DN 6. The rampant breach and over-spilling events keep polluting water in DN 8 and River Yamuna with toxic pollutants including heavy metals.
Yamuna fisher-folk at Palla also keep complaining of periodic fish death spell due to pollution in DN 8 affecting their livelihoods. The seepage from DN-6 and DN-8 (when contaminated by overspill from DN-6) could also be gradually contaminating groundwater in the area.
Experts say that conventional water treatment technologies in Delhi are unable to detect the heavy metals, leads and other carcinogenic contaminants in water let alone the treatment. Contamination of these toxins in potable water supply could be proving a silent killer for public at large.
“It is well documented that as Yamuna passes through Haryana, towns like Panipat and Sonipat discharge their industrial waste, often untreated, into the Yamuna. This has led to increase in heavy metal concentrations, far exceeding the permissible levels, in the drinking water. To make matters worse, the WTPs are not equipped to take out the heavy metals, posing a serious threat to the health of the residents. Additionally, residues of pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCRP), often lumped under the category of “emerging contaminants,” pose a serious threat to the public health”, says Neeraj Vedwan, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersy currently studying chemical contamination of potable water supply in Delhi.
In fact, the 9-inch wall separating the industrial effluents and potable water flowing separately but simultaneously in DN 6 and 8 and sand bags over the wall plug the inevitable contamination are not only improper, unjustified but totally unscientific also. Existence of this system shows ostrich like approach by government agencies of Delhi and Haryana to the potential disaster to public health, Yamuna river eco-system and the risk of groundwater contamination.
The sooner the governments wake up to these realities, risks and violations the better it will be for the people of Delhi, Yamuna river and Delhi groundwater.
Needless to add that the industrial effluents and sewage that flows through DN-6 is mostly untreated. In addition we saw tanker and tractor loads of honey sucker (raw sewage, mostly human excreta) being poured into the DN-6 (completely illegally) just next to seemingly clearer DN-8 carrying Delhi’s drinking water.
DJB will of course claim that what is supplied in DN-8 is treated and tasted before being supplied to Delhi citizens, but is that good enough?
This sounds scandalous, but is true. And it is not clear when and how this state of affairs will improve, if at all. We hope this helps Delhi wake up to this reality.
Bhim Singh Rawat (firstname.lastname@example.org)
You may also like to see; Blow by Blow, how pollution kills the Yamuna river: A Field Trip Report
Next blog in same context will reveal how defunct Kundli CETP is adding chemical waste in Delhi water supply and in Yamuna river.