Dams · Urban Water Sector

Delhi Drinking Water Canal gets toxic mix

In May 2019 SANDRP wrote, with photo evidence, after a visit to the Drain No 8 that brings Delhi’s drinking water that it is running next to drain no 6 carrying untreated industrial toxics from Haryana, with only sand bags separating the two. A visit on 21st July, 2020 provided video proof that water from drain no 6 is still happily mixing with drain no 8 at several places.

A visit to drain number 8, one of prominent canal carrying potable water supply of national capital can be shocking experience to anyone concerned with water quality and health of people. The canal (called escape) flows close to Delhi Haryana border in Sonipat district. The drinking water in the escape is being repeatedly contaminated with all sorts of industrial effluents.

About the drain number 8 and 6

Drain number 8 off takes from Western Yamuna Canal (WYC) near Garhi Bindroli village in Sonipat. It runs west to east for about 20 km before discharging the Delhi’s share of potable water into Yamuna river at Palla village. From there Yamuna river brings the water to Wazirabad Water Treatment Plant, where it is treated and supplied to citizens of Delhi.

Drain number 6, originally starts from Smallkha area of Panipat district. The around 60 km long drain runs north to south and is filled with all sort of solid and liquid waste discharged by industrial units and residential areas in its basin, it is supposed to bring it all to supplementary drain/ Najafgarh drain and through it to Yamuna river, downstream of Wazirabad barrage.  

Poor planning leading to drinking water pollution?

The path of Drain number 6 & drain number 8 meets at at Akbarpur Barota village and then both runs next to each other for about 10km upto Shivpuri colony in Kundli industrial area. Another small 2km stretch of drain number 6 which carries poorly treated or untreated effluents from Kundli industrial area of Haryana, runs counter flow to the drain number 8 course.

dn 6
A line drawing of the places, drains mentioned in the blog. (Bhim Singh Rawat/SANDRP) 

Both parts of drain number 6 are merged at Shivpuri colony. From here, the drain no 6 is diverted into another drain which runs along GT Karnal road, before emptying into supplementary drain near GTK bypass in Delhi. Then the heavily polluted drain merges into Najafgarh nullah which dumps the toxic load in Yamuna river just downstream Wazirabad barrage.

In fact, about 10 km course of drain number 6 is carved out inside drain number 8 by Haryana govt. Apparently a 9 inch wall separates both the drains from intermingling. However the wall has broken and weakened at several locations along its course. Ironically, the Haryana govt has been placing sand bags to prevent contamination of drinking water.

However, breaches of the wall separating drain no 6 & 8 are frequent throughout the year, and overspill episodes are inevitable during seasonal and un-seasonal rains. The sudden and big changes in discharges in either of the drains for several reasons also end up contaminating Delhi water supply canal. These include, for example sudden stoppage and restart of the flow (e.g. due to accident or cleaning or some maintenance work), sudden release of storm water among others.

Field visit on July 21, 2020

On July 21, 2020, during my visit in that area, I visited Shivpuri Colony to check if some steps have been taken to address the same problem raised by SANDRP in May 2019[i].

At Shivpuri colony, where drain number 6 is separated from drain number 8, I saw that drain number 6 was full of solid waste blocking the flow of effluents. A walk along drain towards GTK road also revealed that there was ongoing overspill of industrial effluents from drain number 6 into drain number 8 at least at half a dozen locations.

There were heaps of solid waste dumped inside drain number 6 at four different locations causing blockage in drain number 6. Some of the solid waste was also overflowing into drain number 8. At a number of locations, the drain number 6 also appeared silted up reducing its carrying capacity.


Images showing drain number 6 chocked with solid and liquid waste and poisoning Delhi’s potable water sources. (Bhim Singh Rawat/ SANDRP, July 21, 2020)

Underneath the bridge on GT road, the industrial effluents from drain number 6 were overflowing into drain number 8 at two places. The colour of effluents was black with stinks of industrial waste. Possibly, like the situation we round during visit in May 2019, the CETP (Common Effluent Treatment Plant) Kundli was discharging the pollutants into drain number 6 without any treatment.  More information on Kundli CETP can be seen here[ii].

Hardly 50 metre downstream, there was huge solid waste heap dumped along the slope of left bank of drain number 8. All of these shows that Delhi’s drinking water is regularly getting toxic mix.

Threat to human health

It has been widely known and reported that the industrial effluents in the area are laced with heavy metals including chromium, lead, and mercury, etc. among other toxic pollutants. The effluents treatment plants are not able to detect and remove these chemicals. Several official reports have revealed that Kundli CETP and other effluent treatment plants in the industrial areas of Panipat, Sonipat have not been functioning properly and just by-passing the industrial waste into water sources.


Drain number 6 over spilling into drain number 8 on July 21, 2020 evening (Bhim Singh Rawat, SANDRP)

The fishermen at Palla[iii] have been complaining of recurring fish death events at Palla on account of discharge, breach and over spill of industrial pollution in drain number 8. Moreover, the water treatment plants in Delhi are possibly not equipped to detect and treat a number of toxic elements getting into the raw water, including heavy metals. As carcinogenic, the heavy metals are known for causing skins, lungs diseases including cancer. However, the concerned govts do not seem bothered about these serious risks. 

Mangal Singh and team fishing in Yamuna at Palla. Pollution in DN 8 has been impacting Yamuna fisher-folk adversely.  (Image by author, 18 April 2019) 

Ignoring the problem won’t solve it

Over the years, the Haryana govt has created drains like ditch drain in Yamuna Nagar, and drain number 6 in Sonipat with an objective to keep the industrial and sewage effluents separate from the Western Yamuna Canal and drain number 8.  

However, the pollution treatment mechanism including STPs, ETPs, CETPs have been regularly & frequently malfunctioning in the state. On the other hand, the amount and toxicity of waste water have only increased enormously in these drains. The plan of separate drains for the pollutants was faulty to begin with. The evident mismanagement of pollution abatement mechanism in the state has further defeated their very purpose.

Clearly, its sheer inefficiency, negligence & possibly worse on the part of Haryana govt that has left the water quality of drain number 8 and river Yamuna unacceptably contaminated. The Delhi govt too has been apparently silent on the critical issue concerning public health.

DN 6 loaded with industrial pollution running upstream towards diversion while DN 8 on the right running towards Palla. Image taken near GTK Road by author on May 11, 2019.

In order to change the prevailing situation, the functioning of CETPs must be made effective, transparent and accountable. The treated effluents has to be reused and recycled in industrial activities. Under no circumstance, the industrial effluents can be allowed to be mixed up with drinking water sources.

DN 6 after separated from DN 8 at Shivpuri colony, Kundli, Haryana. (Image, Bhim Singh Rawat/SANDRP, 21 July 2020)

The Delhi Jal Board, the Central Pollution Control Board and Haryana State Pollution Control Board must immediately initiate action to stop this mix up of industrial effluents from Drain no 6 with drain no 8. Moreover, HSPCB and CPCB must act to ensure that CETPs function, failing which, take action against the polluting industries and shut down the non-complying units in Kundli and Sonipat industrial areas.

The apathy on part of central and state govts’ agencies show that they have been deliberately neglecting the health of people. If they fail to act now and pollution of drain number 8 is not addressed, the situation is bound to turn into health disaster sooner rather than later.   

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

End Notes:-

[i] https://sandrp.in/2019/05/16/delhis-drinking-water-is-9-inch-wall-away-from-toxic-industrial-effluents-sewage/

[ii] https://sandrp.in/2019/05/28/common-problems-of-a-common-effluent-treatment-plant-in-yamuna-basin/

[iii] https://sandrp.in/2019/04/28/yamuna-fish-fisher-folks-at-palla/

8 thoughts on “Delhi Drinking Water Canal gets toxic mix

  1. Very nice article for strict action against the culprit whatever they are involved and responsible for the same. All industries/Industrial unit/plot must be the member of the CETP of the Industrial area. DSIIDC is the main culprit in Delhi for the pollution survey report. Many examples regarding water logging of contaminated industrial effluents without any MCD licence / MCD health licence , Valid FSSAI / BIS license etc. and valid membership of the concerned CETP and contaminated industrial manufacturing unit is running with connivance with the concerned area JE and other Government agencies and DSIIDC. Thanks !


    1. Many thanks for sharing your detailed feedback. The CETP(s) in question are of Haryana (Sonipat dist) including Kondli Ind Estate among others.


  2. Thank you for an excellent in depth article/report.
    Such a clear report should normally shock and outrage citizens and governments to take swift and decisive action. Waiting to see if that happens…


  3. Excellent coverage of this grave issue. Thank you for bringing this to the public’s eye. Hopefully governments of both states will soon take long lasting action on this breach of drain no. 6 and 8 channels. Appreciate your work!


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