Yamuna River

Perennially non functional Common Effluent Treatment Plants in Yamuna Basin

Chances are higher that you find a CETP malfunctioning on repeated visits for same commonly made lame excuses. (Feature image 4 MLD Kundli CETP discharging effluents without any treatment into drain number 6, while drain number 8 flowing next to it. Image taken on May 11, 2019 by author)

“Oh my God, its unbearable” was the first expression came out of my mouth instinctively and instantly, while standing at the outlet of Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) in Sonipat District, Haryana. The plant was located in Kundli Industrial Area along DN (Drain Number) 8 at Delhi Haryana border. It was the morning of May 11, 2019 while observing status of DN 6, along with my friend Yayati Bhardwaj.

DN 6 carries industrial and domestic effluents from a large area of Panipat and Sonipat districts while DN 8 supplies potable water to Delhi via Yamuna river. Both drains run parallel for a length of 10 km and more than often intermix due to breaches and spill-overs. To know more about this, see: Delhi’s Drinking Water is 9 inch Wall away from Toxic Industrial Effluents & Sewage.

On that day, the CETP was discharging enormous amount of effluents without any treatment in DN 6. The smell of the apparently poisonous effluent was so intense and foul that it was difficult to stand close to the outlet even for a few minutes.

The dark purple coloured water was flowing into DN 6 as if there were flash flood in a wild river. Hardly at a distance of five meters, DN 8 was carrying potable water supply to Wazirabad Water Treatment Plant (WTP) Delhi. The upper part of wall separating the two drains was broken at two places. Next to the damaged wall, was deep erosion of soil cover settled along the bank of DN 8. It was clear indication that the untreated industrial effluents were contaminating the potable water supply and polluting the river Yamuna. We visited the Kundli CETP to better understand the state of the affairs.

Kundli CETP

The 4 million litres per day (MLD) capacity plant built by Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (HSIIDC) was commissioned in March 2008. The triangle shaped CETP is situated on an about 7 acre land next to DN 6 embankment about 1 km away on the right side of Grand Trunk road.

4 MLD Kundli CETP
Google earth image of CETP

The CETP has an inlet, 1 screening chamber, 1 pumping well with 3 motors, 2 primary clarifiers, 1 aeration tank with 8 motors, 1 secondary clarifier, sludge bed cover about 2000 square metres area, 1 storm water well and outlet.

Kundli Industies Area
Google earth image of Kundli Industrial area and CETP

Kundli Industrial Estate

Kundli Industrial Estate is located some 20 km from Delhi near Delhi Haryana border. As per HSIIDC website the industrial area is being developed since 1982. Under five phases so far, HSIIDC has carved out 1812 plots, out of which 1261 have been allotted while 550 remains unallotted. In all there are 778 industrial units including textiles, cold storage, metal pickling, chemical, pharmaceuticals, recycling and reprocessing of hazardous waste, milk processing and dairy products, rice sheller, polythene and plastic processed products among others.

Screenshot of HSIIDC website showing information about Kundli Industrial area.

According to Action Plan for Yamuna a report prepared by Haryana Govt in Jan. 2019 following National Green Tribunal instructions, there are 170 water consuming and waste water generating industries in Kundli industrial area. These industries consume about 1840 Kilo litres per day (KLD) water and produce equal amount of effluents.

Kundli industries

The source of water supplied by HSIIDC is tubewells. There is no information about privately installed submersibles. Similarly, many industries are known to be pumping effluents back into aquifers however the lengthy report finds no mention of it. Interestingly all the effluents generated is treated by 4 MLD CETP and there is supposed to be nil discharge into nearby freshwater sources namely DN 8 and River Yamuna.

Top 15 water consuming and waste water generating industries in Kundli

SN Type of Industries No. of units Water consumption in KLD Waste water generation in KLD
1 Chemical 1 1 1
2 Cold storage 17 18.1 18.1
3 Ferrous & Non-ferrous metal extraction involving different furnaces 10 25.5 25.5
4 Foam Mfg. 2 2 2
5 Manufacturing of Glass 1 4.5 4.5
6 Metal surface treatment/ pickling/ electroplating/paint stripping etc. 61 467.275 467.275
7 Milk processing & Dairy product 2 324.5 324.5
8 Pharmaceuticals 5 25.2 25.2
9 Physical mixing. 2 2 2
10 Polythene and plastic processed products 21 65.1 65.1
11 Power press. 3 3 3
12 Printing. 11 22.6 22.6
13 Recycling / reprocessing/ recovery/reuse of Hazardous Waste 1 0.8 0.8
14 Rice Sheller 2 102 102
15 Textile 8 453.3 453.3
Total 147 1516.875 1516.875

Source: ACTION PLAN FOR RIVER YAMUNA 31.01.2019, Govt. of Haryana https://hspcb.gov.in/yamuna 

Our visit

Introductory board of CETP Image taken on May 11, 2019 by author

It was about 09:30 am. There were no staff around. We waited for a while then a grumbling man introducing himself as gardener appeared and pointing his hands towards a room close to pumping well, asked us to see the in-charge of the plant there for our enquiries.

Inside the room, Ashok Kumar, the in-charge of the plant was sitting in his underwear with full buckets of cloths for laundry purposes outside the room. When we requested him to explain us the functions of the plant, he started washing clothes and asked us to meet another person to go around.

Effluents by passing second unit of primary clarifier image taken on May 11, 2019 by author

It was purely a coincident that while we were talking to the suggested person, a team of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Lucknow also entered the CETP premises. Soon we could see unease on faces of staff.

After formal verbal inquiry the team offloaded the sampling bottles and started physical inspection of the plant. As per the investigating team, the screen chamber was closed. The pumping well motors were shut. The first unit of primary clarifier was found defunct. Effluents were circumventing the second unit of primary clarifier and reaching aeration tank running with 2 damaged motors. The secondary clarifier tank was also not in use.

Handling Toxic Sludge


The team also found the sludge with toxic elements of heavy metals was disposed in open instead of sludge bed (probably) for de-watering. As per the in-charge, the sludge is regularly sent to Faridabad for further treatment. Neither the in-charge nor the CPCB team knew how it was handled and treated there.

Using the Strom Water Well For By-Passing Effluents

The storm water well was also found full of effluents and lots of plastic waste floating on the water surface. It was obvious that effluents were directly dumped into DN 6 through storm water well. Surprisingly, by the time the team reached the outlet, there was no discharge of either treated or untreated effluents. The CPCB team reportedly following NGT directions, collected all the required water sample for laboratory testing, while we kept observing the entire process.

Storm water well full of solid waste (Image taken on May 11, 2019 by Author)

According to plant in-charge, HSIIDC had laid down separate lines of collecting storm water and industrial waste water. However, many industries have been disposing off their effluents into storm water drain in place of effluent lines. Hence, effluents were also reaching into storm water well in CETP. He also disclosed that many industries have deliberately shown their effluent discharges low to HSIIDC, where as they were using more water and generating more waste water. He also said that the plant was undergoing repairs for past one month, otherwise they used to divert the effluents from storm water well to treatment process.

It is worth mention that during their monthly or other visits, HSIIDC have failed to identify and take action against misuse of storm water drain and misinformation of water use and waste water generation.

Deceiving Online Monitoring System

It was interesting to know that the CETP plant was connected with Central Emission/ Effluents Monitoring System (CEMS) which is a CPCB installed software system to monitor real time and regular monitoring of CETPs and industries with individual Effluent Treatment Plant (ETP).

As CPCB team revealed to us, the CEMS instrument sensor was kept in a separate clean water pool thus manipulated readings were being fed into system.

CEMS installation at final treatment of effluents (Image taken on May 11, 2019, by author) 

“In running water, the readings keep changing, when same data is generated constantly for about 15 minutes, the plant management is alerted though automatic SMSs and emails (that something is wrong). It’s their responsibility to rectify the process” said one of the CPCB officials.

According to the team, CPCB works under Environment Protection Act and they have monitoring role. They can recommend adherence to compliance and can issue closure notice under section 5 of the act, whereas the SPCBs function under Water and Air Pollution Acts.

The plant in-charge too appeared dissatisfied with CEMS. “Even if the plant is run properly, the instrument measures BOD, COD level way up than we believe what it should be”, stated the Ashok Kumar, after CPCB visit.

Plant operator believes CEMS is not giving correct readings (Image taken on 11 May 2019, by author) 

There were clear contradictions in the statement made by both sides and visible violations. The Action Plan for Yamuna, Haryana Government Jan. 2019 report finds the CETP under compliance. The report also lacks data for several crucial parameters as shown in table below.

Monitoring of CETP

As per SPCB website there are 23 industries with private ETP and self-employed pollution control mechanism. Out of them, 7 industries are water consuming and polluting industries. The CEMS data shows that 2 of these 7 industries are offline and the rest 5 online. Real time monitoring data of these can be seen here.

Screenshot of CEMS online monitoring page (Image source HSPCB website) 

It seems that advance monitoring technologies are available but the polluters have found ways to fabricate the data and defeat the intent and purpose of it. Only SPCB officials and owners of the industries know the ground realities and there is no guarantee that data fed into the CEMS is real and genuine.  

On similar lines, the groundwater quality monitoring report and drain water quality report prepared by SPCB in Kundli area are also within permissible limits which raises suspicion given the reports of injection of pollution in groundwater and malfunctioning of Kundli CETP.   

Manipulating Plant’s Performance Records

We learnt that the CETP was running under capacity. On an average 2.5 or 3 MLD effluents were reaching the plant as per the register maintained by the operators. As per the records a team of State Pollution Control Board (SPCB), Haryana on May 3, 2019 found that CETP performance as non-complying.

Image of daily log book showing the data is not filled regularly and manipulated image taken on May 18, 2019 by author.

“Even in April 2019, the plant was found non-complying with respect to the stipulated norms. We have sent them prosecution notice and will take action soon”, said Balraj Singh Ahlawat, Regional Officer (RO) SPCB, Sonipat. 

However, as per the Haryana Government report already referred above, so far SPCB has closed only three industries in Kundli for operating without Consent To Operate (CTO). The report, as seen below, does not mention the date of closure.  

List of industries in Kundli closed by SPCB for operating without CTO

Name of Industries/ Projects Date of closure Reason of closure Latest status
M/s Colour Creation. Opp. B.J. Duplex, Piyau Maniyari Road, Sonipat Closure order issued by the Board. Operating without CTO Lying Closed
M/s M.M. Forge, Village Wazidpur Saboli, Distt. Sonipat Closure order issued by the Board. Operating without CTO Lying Closed
M/s Rigya Impex, killa No. 68/5/3/4 68/5/1/3/1,5/3/2, Narela Road, Vill. Kundli, Sonipat Closure order issued by the Board. Operating without CTO Lying Closed

Source: ACTION PLAN FOR RIVER YAMUNA 31.01.2019, Govt. of Haryana https://hspcb.gov.in/yamuna

In fact, the Kundli CETP was out of operation from 6 May to 11 May 2019 as the records were not up todate and logbooks were filled belatedly, and not on daily basis, and in bulk. It also came to light that the CETP is neither producing energy nor reusing the treated water. The lab inside the plant was full of dust and without essential equipments. The staff felt it to be of no use when the CEMS is installed. 

Despite infrastructure built and money invested, the CETP was leading to pollution of the surface water sources including potable water source and river Yamuna.

CETP Kundli Continues To Be Defunct

Plant is under repair is the commonest excuse when one finds a STP or CETP out of operation. There is power cut, we have run out of fuel to start generator are other common excuses.

CETP discharging effluents into DN 6 without treatment. (Image taken on 18 May 2019 by Author) 

One wonders why these plants receiving effluents round the clock don’t have back up or alternatives to switch over to, when it is down for these strangely repeated, unacceptable reasons.

The problems with CETP Kundli seems to be fundamental and unending. The second visit to the plant, in the morning of May 18, 2019 confirms that. On this day too, it was found discharging untreated effluents into DN 6.

“The second unit of primary clarifier is under repair. It will be ready soon”, says the in-charge. The in-charge taking care of the plant since beginning and working in the profession for about 15 years, feels that the first unit of clarifier was never in use and it was built uselessly. Further revelations were alarming.

First unit of primary clarifier lying defunct. (Image taken on May 11, 2019 by author) 

“Out of three motors at pumping wells, only one which is submersible, works efficiently, the rest two are just supplementing the pumping process” he adds.

On asking why the CETP was still discharging untreated effluents, he replied that during welding work in the day, plant has to be kept shut. Secondly he claimed that effluents from Kundli village are reaching the plant and it must be stopped. That claim had no basis.

“We are bearing losses. The tender period is too short. Operating company can’t bear the repair costs on its own. It is done with the HSIIDC permission. The bureaucratic system takes a lot of time. We are short staffed and under paid”, says Ashok Kumar. These issues may very well be affecting the efficient operation of the plant.

The plant was running without primary clarifiers and chemical stabilizers which according to the staff was yielding same results as with these in-built processes.

“So with so many shortcomings and without following due processes, it’s working just like an STP instead of CETP”, I guessed and staff nodded in affirmation.

Broken part of DN 6 outside CETP. On event of over spill the effluents mixes potable water flowing in DN 8 (Image taken on May 18, 2019 by author)

A phone call in the evening of May 26, 2019 to the CETP staff confirmed business as usual scenario. The only difference was that they wanted me to let them know in advance before making future visits to the plant.

The Kundli CETP is classical example of how the infrastructure set up in the name of pollution control is not delivering and the legally empowered pollution control mechanisms have failed, at the cost of public health and also health of the river. And there are 4 such CETPs in Sonipat alone and 15 in entire Haryana allowing 2254 industries consume 137399 KLD of fresh water and flush 124489 KLD of industrial effluents in Yamuna.

The Yamuna pollution case has been going on the Apex Court since 1994, transferred to NGT in 2018, and now NGT is dealing with it. But the state of pollution control remains the same. This also reflects on the performance on judiciary, the Union MoEF which has been handling the Yamuna Action Plan for decades and even now supposed to be empowered to deal with water pollution issues, the NMCG that is handling the Ganga basin pollution issues now and Union Ministry of Water Resources, under which NMCG functions.

Compiled by Bhim Singh Rawat (bhim.sandrp@gmail.com)

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