Sarsa river: a grave for aquatic life

BADDI: Sarsa river near Baddi has turned out to be a grave for aquatic life. The three cases involving mortality of fish on large scale since June month have exposed the mindless industrial growth of area. The floating of dead fish on river surface has now become common phenomenon. The fish were believed to be killed by the alleged discharge of toxic effluents and pesticides in river by some industrial units. The discharge of untreated water through Sandouli nallah that meets Sarsa between Malpur and Kainduwala villages by some units was seemed to be main reason behind problem.

Interestingly every time incidents occurred, the Pollution Control Board (PCB) took samples of water as well as of dead fish. The water samples were sent to department’s laboratory at Parwanoo. While the fish samples were sent to Dr. Y.S. Parmar University of Forestry and Horticulture to find out the pesticide contents in them.

After that, followed the process to give notices to defaulting units and subsequent disconnection of power of few units. The powerless units used generators to keep alive their function and those getting notices assured to improve the things. Later after some time, the same incident took place and same process followed.

Till now, no report on investigations has come up officially. Moreover no result on sample taken has shared with anybody. Not a single person either of PCB or in local industrial associations was still aware of what exact problem was and from where it originated. No planning has made to check the repeat of incidence.

The things remained stuck at blame game on each other with nobody bothered to take responsibility of problem.

Inquires show, the very few pesticides units have their own water treatment plants. While majority of pesticides units kept untreated water as storage. The units used to flow down the untreated water in Sarsa whenever rain occurred during night. This practice was going on unabated since long despite the clear order of Pollution Control Board (PCB) to discharge only the treated water in river.

As per information available the fish usually entered Sarsa River water from Sutlej after rain lashed the upstream hill area. It was also a fine opportunity for Baddi based units to discharge their untreated water through drains and nullhas to Sarsa. Sarsa has already left little water creatures thanks to the repeated flowing of untreated water and highly toxic wastage by units.

The local Pollution Board office seemed to be ill-equipped to check the flowing of dangerous waste in river. The pesticide limit of over 1 PPM (parts per million) in water was dangerous for any water creatures but Sarsa water seemed to be polluted far from the permissible limit.

After June incidents the department had rolled many heads within department besides ordering power disconnection of 8 faulty units and warning notices to 122 units. The number of reports was made as measures to check the happening in future again.

The fishes seem to be died due to pesticides in water, admits Mr. Brij Bhushan, Executive Engineer, PCB Baddi. There are some big units of spinning and paper mills and pharma upstream the Sandouli nallah, he remarks. The pesticides found in fish will be matched with units sample to trace the culprit, he points out.

Interestingly industrial fraternity at Baddi has enraged over the allegation on units to flow down the waste in Sarsa River. The HP Council of CII has expressed surprise over the allegation on industry. Every industry in the belt has installed water or wastage treatment plant. Moreover no NOC was granted by Pollution Control Board (PCB) without confirming about such treatment plant. How could an industrial unit working for 365 days in a year gain anything by releasing untreated water for one day in a year, questions Mr. Rajender Guleria , Chairman of HP CII .

“There was no logic in belief that the untreated water was accumulated and released only during rain. The cost of accumulating untreated water for a year would cost much more than treating it in routine, Industry has always offered for thorough investigation on the issue to find out the truth. It was totally illogical to imagine that the pollution level in river has gone high during a single day and remained under control other days.”

Mr. Guleria further says, industry was, however concerned about the deteriorating conditions of cleanliness because of alarming increase in civic waste in this area. The belt has no proper treatment as well as disposal management. Moreover the belt also lacked sewage lines as well as public toilet despite having floating population of 3 to 4 lacs daily.”

On the other hand the locally based Him Parivesh pollution Protection Organization has warned to take legal course against defaulting units. Mr. Bal Krishan Sharma, General Secretary of Organization says, we will launch drive to identify such defaulting units.

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