Col (Retd) Jasjit Singh Gill
In the inauguration of the Rs 650 Crore Buddah Driya rejuvenation project we the residents and environment conscious keepers of the city have seen watershed moment in the polluted history of this water body.
Now the question arises about how well it will be executed, time lines to execute it, monitoring its project implementation and the financial resources to fund this rejuvenation.
Firstly all nature loving and enthusiastic environmentalists deserve the highest accolades for highlighting the apathy of the successive governments towards continuous pollution of this once clear water river by the dyeing industry, the dairy clusters of Tajpur and Haibowal, by Municipal Corporation by Direct untreated raw sewerage, Direct raw fecal discharge by the encroachers squatting alongside its banks as well direct discharge of various toilets made alongside its banks, the solid waste in the form of garbage, fish , chicken and meat shops bio waste, hosiery industry waste, animal carcasses and large amount of thermocol and plastic waste.
Ludhiana got its sewer lines laid from the early seventies and eighties. Till 2007 total raw sewerage, all industrial and dairy waste of Ludhiana used to be dumped in the Buddah Dariya. The three plants of capacity 111MLD, 48 MLD and 152 MLD were initially set up at Village Bhattian, Jamalpur and Village Balloke respectively in the year 2007 on UASB Technology. Two more STPs of 50 MLD and 105 MLD on SBR technology were added at Bhattian and Balloke respectively.
These three STP’s started functioning with the UASB (Up Flow – Anaerobic Sludge Blanket Reactor) technology and later up gradation to SBR (Sequencing Batch Reactors) Technology was taken up module wise. Still raw sewerage beyond the capacities of the STP’s is flowing into the Buddah River on to river Sutlej. The city still does not have any separate storm water system and during roughly 49 days of rain in a year the sewerage system gets overloaded with rainwater and thus loses efficiency to a considerable extent including silting and choking of sewer lines. In addition throughout the year the Municipal Corporation supplies 280 litres of water per day per person against the national norm of max 235 liters per person per day adding to the load of the sewerage system.
Having highlighted the kind of rampant pollution which this water body faced and still faces we now go little into the background of this man made fiasco and environmental disaster how it reached this monumental stage.
If the Ludhiana city was sans Buddah River no municipal corporation would have dared to discharge the raw sewerage in the underground water or into River Sutlej in the absence of the requisite amount and types of sewerage treatment plants from. So as they say it became a dumping ground of the raw sewerage as the city expanded and even nearby villages were too connected too these sewerage lines which kept discharging untreated sewerage. Dyeing industry misused the river in the absence of CETPs which have recently been constructed and some are yet to be commissioned. The scattered dyeing industry units which are about 40-45 in number will need to be relocated, have in house treatment or can be connected to a chemical effluent treatment plant subsequently.
Even though the electroplating industries are supposedly getting their water treated by a cost per liter of polluted water from a Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) located in the industrial Area , I will leave it to the imagination of the reader that why an industry will be keen pay more to get their polluted water treated – so their lies the hidden input the electroplating industry does not give all their polluted water for treatment. When I did some research I found almost 50 % of the polluted electroplating industry water does not reach this CETP.
On asking the solution to get 100% water out from industries I was told that they are ready to pay a tax/cess rather than per liter cost of Rs0.75 per liter of polluted water. Meaning thereby a government should pay the agency running the CETP for electroplating industry out of the pollution tax/cess thus collected rather than the industry accounting for each liter which they deliberately hide to save costs as per normal human greed levels. Meanwhile there are new units coming up which are not on radar of the Pollution Control authorities which has limited manpower resources to track the offenders and if ultimately caught they escape via the corruption route.
This factor I have highlighted because the sewerage water will have a fair amount of pollutants from the electroplating industry flowing into the new treatment plants also despite their own functional CETP.
Besides this the water will have other industrial wastes due to negligence, oversight and deliberate effort resulting from non installation or old and inefficient anti pollution treatment gadgets and equipments.
Now coming to Dairy waste problem although there is a provision to have exclusive ETP for the dairy waste but of late the effort has been to grant CLU to the dairy land allotted earlier and locating the dairies at one cluster away from the city to altogether eradicate this particular type of waste from system. Hopefully some solution should come out soon otherwise its biowaste load is a major pollution source pollution as well wastage of ground water as presently most solid cow dung waste is washed away in to the sewerage system with high pressure submersible pumps rather than be collected as semisolid and carted away.
Now we come to a point why there is so much money being spent on rejuvenation of Buddah River?
It is not a very factual and accurate statement. Actually it is the outcome of general apathy of the concerned, no planning and bad governance over decades which has brought the situation to this pass. Most of the money is going to be spent upon the up gradation of defunct or old technology based sewerage treatment plants out of which only modules based on SBR technology are functional in one at Bhattian and Balloke whereas Jamalpur is lying totally closed other than just working as a pumpling station of 48 MLD. Now if we look at the scope of the work it includes setting up of two new sewage treatment plants (STPs) with tertiary filtration for treating 285 MLD waste water, two effluent treatment plants for treatment of 6 MLD waste water from two dairy clusters, refurbishment of four existing STPs with the treatment capacity of 418 MLD, infrastructure for the transfer of waste water overflowing into the nullah to the STPs, 10-year operation and maintenance of the entire infrastructure.
If we see for refurbishment of three existing STP’s with the treatment capacity of 418 MLD it will cost around Rs 100 crore which is about 1/5 th of the total project cost and for the new 285 MLD it will cost around Rs 285 crore at the rate of Rs. 1 crore per MLD as per the presentation given by the Local Government Secretary. Therefore a total amount of around Rs. 400 In the name of Buddah River Project will be used for the up gradation which is as it is required as it is because of the technology upgrade has also been put into the project thereby increasing the project cost directly attributable to Buddah Dariya because as per my understanding If Buddah River was not geographically present there still these three STP’s would have required technical upgrade.
So logically in order to justify the upgrade the sewerage is being lifted and pumped to these STP’s instead of having new STP’s downstream which would have cost less as per the land gradient and wherever it was required to lift the sewerage due to gradient lift pumps could have been used but at a very few points which would have further saved the costs as well as served the new colonies and areas which are now being added in south and west of the city and for future expansion as per master plan..
Having written about the cleaning of water that will come into the river from rain and after treatment now let’s see what other issues are there which deform and spoil the physicality and the look of Buddah Dariya?
We all know that the water mixed from dyeing or other industrial sources will be cleared by CETP’s, Dairy waste by ETP’s, Sewerage by the STP’s but who will stop the various types of solid waste being thrown into the river as mentioned above. I have demonstrated on the Buddah Dariya the colossal amount of Solid waste being thrown into the river by putting my innovation of Floating Drum Barrier near Twin Railway bridges.
Buddah Dariya’s major problem has been of its demarcation on ground which began first time on the initiative of Buddah Dariya Task Force Chief Namdhari Satguru Thakur Uday Singh Ji with active support of the present MC commissioner to find the encroachments, demarcate these and get them cleared is yet to be implemented. If that is done more Micro Forests will come up on the cleared land adjoining its banks.
There is lot of sludge as its banks keep crumbling into the Buddah Dariya adding to the sludge, due to encroachments as well as weathering by rain and floods. (which was previously being cleared at the cost of Rs 1 Crore approx every year being paid to a contractor via irrigation branch which now will be done with a Poclain excavator bought by MC recently will certainly reduce the costs) . The basic first step needed is to make its banks firm on both sides along its entire stretch by putting gabions( which are stones tied by wire to stop erosion).
So foremost we need is to take actions now or may be taken in the phase two of the project is to make the space around the banks of the river as sacred, fenced ,put up micro forests including various plants like KHUSS which help in purification of dirty water as we need to realize that this water after merging with River Sutlej is being used as drinking water in parts of south Punjab and Rajasthan as well as for irrigation from where this enters our food chain in form of vegetables, fruits and cereals.
The best way to stop solid waste pollution of the Buddah Dariya is to declare the area fenced from the boundary marked to the banks as a NO Man’s Land but for the workers who tend the Micro Forests or other fixtures on both sides of the River however big or small the area may be.In order to check the rampant solid waste throwing into the Buddah River the mere awareness by NCC and NSS volunteers are not going to work.
Even warnings of hefty fines on being caught have not deter the stubborn and habitual offenders. So what is required is that an Environment Safety Task Force in proper uniform comprising of ex servicemen for day and night patrolling the entire Nallah stretch be raised and funded for at least two years duration out of the present funds.
This task force will be empowered to challan and make on spot recoveries so as to break the habit and stop it altogether. Such steps are required if we want the project to deliver results. This task force will certainly augment the safety being imparted to the water body by a 14 km long 10 feet high chain link fence on both the sides of the Buddah Dariya at the cost of Rs10.64 crore under the smart city project.
Coming to finance part the project has got its first installment of Rs 320 crore in the account of Municipal Corporation Ludhiana. A steady flow by putting environment cess of 25 paisa on each litre of petrol and diesel sold in Punjab has been effected. Also revenue realized from revenue receipt at the rate of 25 paisa per rs 100 of revenue earnings has been earmarked for the Present Buddah Dariya Project from the Punjab Infrastructure development fund. After completion of this project the environment fund so collected will be available for its subsequent phases as well as for other environment projects of Punjab. A sum of Rs 55 Crore over 5 years period is also likely to occur from the sale of tapped methane gas by the company project.
Now coming to monitoring the need is to increase the public participation in the monitoring activity rather than just have only two members from industry and one from the Buddah Dariya Task Force. More public participation can be increased by including all members of the Buddha Dariya task force, NGO’s representatives, public representatives alongside the Buddah Dariya, having representatives from various types of industry who pollute the river directly or indirectly, Dairy industry representatives despite having a minister and
Mayor from the dairy industry, representatives of senior citizen associations who have experience of monitoring such projects. More is the number of the non official members in the monitoring panel better will be the quality and lesser will be the chances of lowering the specifications which tends to lead to low quality and thus to corruption.
My word on monitoring of this project or for that matter any government project is that “Public Funds utilization should be monitored to ensure optimum utilization by participation of the public in larger number than the number of officials.
(The author is an army veteran and noted environment activist of Punjab)