M A I N   N E W S

Here, booze comes free with water
Alarming alcohol content in ground water in areas close to Punjab distilleries 
Naveen S Garewal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, June 17
Ground water in the vicinity of several distilleries in Punjab has been found to contain excessive amount of alcohol as these distilleries are discharging their effluents into the soil or in nearby water channels without passing these through a filtration plant.

Investigation by a core team of Punjab legislators has come up with a finding that a nearly 30-km area around four major distilleries has become highly polluted and contains huge amounts of alcohol.

The report of the Pollution Control Committee (PCC) of the Punjab Vidhan Sabha, which is yet to be tabled in the House, has said that the situation is alarming as it is causing great harm to the health of the people living in the vicinity of the distilleries. The report is expected to be tabled in the coming monsoon session of the House.

The main culprits as per this finding are four distilleries in the Dera Bassi, Pathankot, Hamira and Gurdaspur areas. To help reduce pollution, the PCC led by Vidhan Sabha Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon is now expected to visit Scotland in the first week of July to study how the world’s scotch manufacturers manage to keep Scotland pollution-free, despite producing huge quantities of scotch supplied all over the world. The PCC has already received a green signal from the state Finance Department.

Punjab has seen several protests by residents living near distilleries, complaining of a perpetual foul smell and pollution of the sub-soil water, affecting their drinking water. Only recently, people of Hamira, on the Jalandhar-Amritsar highway, staged a dharna, blocking the road to draw the government’s attention towards these polluting industries.

The Vidhan Sabha team comprising representatives from all parties, including the BJP, SAD and Congress has discovered that the distilleries were not only polluting the sub-soil water, but they were even discharging the effluents into the rivers, dealing a blow to the marine life, including large-scale death of fish. Some members of the PPC include Jagdeep Singh Nakai (Chairman), Balbir Sigh Bath and Virsa Singh Valtoha (SAD), Anil Joshi (BJP), Avtar Brar and Kuldip Bhattal (Congress).

One of the findings of the report is that since these distilleries find use of coal expensive, they use rice husk and later scatter the ash all along roads and vacant areas, causing huge air pollution. Beer distilling and bottling plants discharge waste in streams and ponds which seeps into the ground.

At many places, the waste after production of alcohol is discharged into the rivers, causing resentment in areas where the rive water passes through religious places like in Hargobindpur, Goindwal Sahib, Khadoor Shib, Sultanpur Lodhi and River Beas, passing close to the Radha Soami Dera at Beas.

The PCC proposes to give a detailed report with recommendation on air pollution control especially that caused by gaseous emissions, control of noise pollution, water management through water audit and building of effluent treatment plants by putting up grain slops (spent wash) for separation of suspended solids and solid waste management such as use of fly ash from the boiler for brick manufacturing, etc.





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