NGT intervenes to protect Doodh Ganga
For the last several years I have been trying my best to highlight the deplorable condition of Doodh Ganga, the major drinking water source for Srinagar uptown. Having tried my best to sensitize the Government and other stakeholders through my columns, news reports, and also posting videos on social media platforms, the authorities at the helm were least bothered to act.
I even sent written representations to several offices asking them to take stringent measures to curb pollution in Doodh Ganga. The written communication via speed post was sent to J&K Chief Secretary, Deputy Commissioners of Srinagar, Budgam, Director Urban Local Bodies Kashmir, Commissioner SMC, Member Secretary J&K Pollution Control Committee (PCC) and Member Secretary Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) New Delhi. In response to these letters only Member Secretary J&K Pollution Control Committee responded back with a written reply. He provided a detailed report and sent me copies of notices PCC had sent to SMC Srinagar to stop work on illegal pumping stations. The response filed before J&K High Court as well was also sent to me. Pertinently J&K High Court is also hearing a case on Doodh Ganga pollution on its own motion vs J&K Govt.
Moving to NGT
As Govt agencies failed to stop the unabated pollution in Doodh Ganga, not even responding to J&K High Court orders or taking cognizance of my written complaints, I had no option but to seek judicial intervention by moving a petition before the National Green Tribunal (NGT . Last month the NGT issued a direction for the constitution of a five-member joint committee for submission of a factual report before the tribunal. NGT’s principal bench, headed by Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, in a detailed order dated October 18, said:
“It appears that there is continued violation of the Water Act to the prejudice of the environment and public health which remains unchecked. Thus, intervention of the Tribunal may be called for. Accordingly, we direct the authorities to verify the facts and take remedial action in accordance with law. We also constitute a five-member Joint Committee of CPCB, J&K PCC, Deputy Commissioners, Srinagar and Budgam and the Director, Urban Local Bodies, J&K. The State PCB will be the nodal agency for compliance and coordination. The Joint Committee may meet within two weeks and undertake visits to the sites in question “
SMC major polluter of Doodh Ganga
Doodh Ganga, which literally means a river of milk, originates from the glaciers of Pir Panjal mountains (4200 meters) between the Budgam and Poonch districts. More than 6 lakh people get their drinking water supply from the small river, which used to be as pristine as its name suggests until a few decades ago. Since then, due to the massive urbanisation in the districts of Budgam and Srinagar, Doodh Ganga has been turned into a drain by the local people and the administration.The biggest polluter of Doodh Ganga is the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), which has been pumping all its liquid waste into it, which includes hazardous waste and human excreta, without any treatment. This is is a clear violation of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 (Water Act). As already reported by me in one of my articles published in August this year , SMC with support from the World Bank has been constructing around 50 Intermediary Pump Stations (IPS) in Srinagar city to prevent flooding in low lying areas. Four pump stations are being upgraded by the SMC’s city drainage division at Natipora, Barzulla, Bulbul Bagh and Magray Pora localities of uptown Srinagar. The work is going on at full pace. All the flood/storm water will be pumped out into Doodh Ganga,
13 drainage stations
The Pollution Control Committee (PCC), has identified 13 drainage stations of SMC as the main sources of water pollution in Doodh Ganga. None of these drainage stations is provided with a sewage treatment plant (STP) to treat waste water or liquid waste draining out into Doodh Ganga. In fact, there is not even a single functional STP for any of the discharges into the Doodh Ganga. The polluted water also goes on to enter the Hokersar wetland, which is again a violation of the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2017. SMC engineers claim that the pump stations only drain out storm water into Doodh Ganga, but these pump stations actually flush every liquid or semi-solid waste into the river. This was revealed when one of the pump stations was made operational last month at Bulbul Bagh. Black toxic liquid was drained into Doodh Ganga (see pic). Once the capacity of these pump stations is enhanced, one shudders to imagine how much liquid waste will be pumped into Doodh Ganga.
Around 50 years back, a water filtration plant named the Doodh Ganga Water Filtration Plant was set up at the Kralpora locality in the outskirts of Srinagar. Raw water from Doodh Ganga is lifted up to a hillock and processed through chlorine gasification. The drinking water supplied by the filtration plant is not fit for drinking as huge quantities of liquid and solid waste that comes down to Kralpora from the Chadoora town and surrounding localities contaminate the water. Some raw water also comes directly to Kralpora through a pipeline from Doodh Ganga. This is lifted at Nowhar area and the water is relatively not polluted. Experts say that such contaminated water cannot be purified by chlorine gas, which is itself harmful for human health. As per the inspection report of the J&K Pollution Control Committee (PCC) prepared in September this year, an analysis of samples collected from Doodh Ganga at different locations indicated that water in upstream spots, that is, at Sogam, Chadoora and Baghi-e-Mehtab, meet the prescribed permissible limit for ‘Class B’ (Outdoor Bathing Organised) criteria in terms of analysed physicochemical parameters.
On the other hand, in the lower course of river, that is around Baghat, Old Barzulla and Tengpora areas, the water quality didn’t even confirm to the ‘Class B’ criteria for the parameters of ‘Dissolved Oxygen’ and ‘Biochemical Oxygen Demand’. This is the damning indictment presented in the PCC report which reads :
“Dewatering pump stations installed at various locations on the bank of Doodh Ganga river are still operational and discharge untreated wastewater into the River. No concrete steps have been taken by concerned municipal authorities with regard to scientific disposal of solid waste as dumping of solid waste on the banks of Doodh Ganga continues unabated. Municipal Committee Chadoora is dumping the solid waste generated from the Chadoora town on the Bank of Doodh Ganga near Abshar colony.”
The J&K Government in spite of receiving huge funds under the Jal Jeewan Mission, Swachh Bharat Mission and other national flagship programmes plus World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) has failed to utilize them to clean drinking water sources or undertake solid and liquid waste management. Recently a team of officers consisting of DC Srinagar, DC Budgam, Regional Director & scientists from PCC visited Doodh Ganga around Brazulla and Chadoora on the orders of NGT. I am sure the committee will submit a factual report before NGT. It is urged upon authorities that Sewerage Treatment Plants (STPs) be set up around Chadoora, Chanapora and Tengpora so that liquid waste does not enter directly into Doodh Ganga. It must be ensured that these STPs are set up outside the population. Govt agencies must also hold frequent cleanliness drives & IEC programmes around banks of Doodh Ganga from Branwar to Barzulla.
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow. He is also Climate Action Fellow at Anant National University & Founder-Chairman J&K RTI Movement
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.