Distillery effluents polluting drinking water
HAMIRA (KAPURTHALA): Hundreds of small farmers and poor residents of six villages around Jagatjit Distillery here are forced to drink polluted ground water, thanks to the alleged discharge of pollutants and effluents by this major industrial unit even as the distillery management claims to have undertaken a number of remedial measures and other projects for the welfare of these villages.
A large number of farmers and residents of Hamira, Lakhan Khurd, Lakhan Kalan, Rajpura, Manar, Dyalpur and Neharpura villages were sore about the alleged indifference of the distillery authorities towards their “basic right to have clean water”. They also gave vent to their feelings, though reluctantly, against the panchayat and other local leaders, who had “failed” to do anything to improve their lot as also environment of the area for decades together.
Meanwhile, the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) authorities confirmed that ground water — up to about at least 70 feet in depth — has been rendered unfit for human consumption with in a radius of about 4 km from the distillery and that its repeated communications to the distillery authorities to ensure the discharge of effluents within prescribed parameters has virtually failed to yield any tangible results so far.
A visit by a Tribune team to the affected areas revealed that ground water up to about 60-70 feet had turned either light-to-deep yellow or red in most areas and all shallow water pumps had been rendered ineffective as far as drinking water was concerned. “Nobody listens to us. I wish the government steps in and does something for us,” observed Mangal Singh, a labourer of Lakhan village, which echoed the sentiments of hundreds of people like him. “Water we are forced to drink is almost red. The only remedy left with us is to take some water from the village for drinking along with us whenever we are away to our fields. Otherwise, we have to tread a path of about 2 km to fetch drinking water from the village,”rued Amrik Singh, a resident of this village, who has about 12 acres of land on the village outskirts. “Go and ask the Sarpanch what she has done for us so far?” retorted Sahibjit and his brother, Arshdeep, when asked about the measures taken by the village panchayat to improve the quality of ground water. “No government officials have ever visited these villages to make us aware about the extent of damage caused to health of people by consuming this kind of water,” they alleged.
Residents of a Dalit colony on the outskirts of the village were more upset. “You talk about drinking water, we have to go to tubewells of other farmers for washing our clothes or bathing as the only deep hand-pump provided by the distillery authorities for about 70 houses is not enough to meet the demand”, asserted Surjit Kaur. Similarly, Jasbir Kaur alleged that none of their relatives preferred to come to their homes for shortage of drinking water. “Whenever some officials come to collect water samples, we are not allowed to talk to them and this has been happening for so many years,” said Surjit Kaur.
Ironically, when The Tribune team visited the house of Hamira village Sarpanch, Daljit Kaur, her husband, Lakhwinder Singh, spoke on her behalf. He admitted that though the village panchayat had never lodged any complaint in this connection to the higher authorities, a resolution had been passed by it in July last year about air and water pollution allegedly caused by the distillery. “This resolution was sent to the BDPO. On the other hand, the distillery authorities have promised to install a new tubewell to supply drinking water to half of the population of the village, which is not getting adequate water supply from the existing tubewell.”
Mr Ashok Bharti, Assistant Vice-President of Jagjit Industries Limited, maintained that an effluent treatment plant (ETP) had been installed by the management as per the guidelines of the PPCB at a cost of Rs 26 crore. Residents of most villages have been given employment in the factory. A bio-composting unit has been installed to control water pollution apart from development of agro-forestry on 78 acres of land. We are installing another submersible pump in Hamira village, besides setting up two dispensaries.”