Drink this poison YOU MUST

Published: September 2, 2009 - 14:36 Updated: September 2, 2009 - 14:38

As Delhi gears up for the Commonwealth Games, how is the city going to treat waste water and effluents?

Wazirabad barrage in north Delhi is the last point where Yamuna is just about partially clean. After that there is no freshwater flow in the dirty river. The water is brownish, but many people are swimming in it, risking skin and other infections. "It is hot and the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) water supply doesn't suffice," says Jamal to Hardnews. There is not even a signboard to warn people that the water they are wallowing in isn't fit for bathing or any human contact. "Even the ground water is filthy and the water of the river causes skin allergies and irritation," Abdul Sattar, a 'self employed life-saver' told Hardnews. He saved several school-children from drowning after their bus fell into the waters in 1997.

Recently, when Haryana suddenly increased its deadly chemical effluents discharge in the river, the chloride levels shot up to 500 mg/litre, 20 times the normal level. People from east, north and even south districts of Delhi complained of salty and yellowish water. Kinley, Bisleri and their locally bottled cousins sold like hot cakes. "We are getting yellow water from the past few days. We have no other option, but to buy bottled water," a Delhi University professor complained.

Officials say that chloride is not harmful but renders a salty taste to water. As normally there isn't any chloride in the raw water, DJB has no infrastructure to treat this chloride content. This high chloride content isn't a new phenomenon. In June 2009, people had complained of foul taste as the Chandrawal and Wazirabad water treating facilities could not treat the water. In December 2008, ammonia levels were so high that Chandrawal and Wazirabad plants had to be shut down and taps remained dry in most of the households across the city.

Haryana has a history of dumping sewage and other toxic industrial waste in Yamuna. "The problem of polluted water is not new," Sattar lamented. Delhi gets nearly 300 mgd of water after much haggling as Haryana complains of shortage of water for its own irrigation needs. The tanneries, paper mills and sugar factories in Panipat and Yamuna Nagar in Haryana are allegedly responsible for dumping filth in Yamuna. Reportedly, the water of Yamuna at Yamuna Nagar has all hues, green, red and even black because of the industrial effluents. 

It is this water that reaches Delhi. And because of low rainfall, the toxins are not getting diluted. There is no mechanism to check this brazen criminal violation of daily life, leaving the people of city exposed to serious diseases, allergies and long-term side-effects. Besides, DJB's faulty water pipelines and sewage getting mixed up with drinking water is routine.

As Delhi gears up for the Commonwealth Games, how is the city going to treat waste water and effluents? Can this poisonous episode of chemicalised taps be repeated with international athletes and tourists in town? And, will any civilised modern nation ever accept and allow such criminal pollution of mass drinking water?

As Delhi gears up for the Commonwealth Games, how is the city going to treat waste water and effluents?

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This story is from print issue of HardNews