Data collected by the Central Pollution Control Board under the Sutlej Monitoring Project has put a question mark on the working of the Punjab Pollution Control Board.
Despite stringent restrictions being implemented for checking pollution in water bodies over the past 10 years, pollution in the Sutlej has increased tremendously. According to Dr Akepati S. Reddy of the Department of Biotechnology and Environmental Sciences at Thapar deemed university, who has been collecting data on the river for the past 10 years on behalf of the Central board, the river water can’t be termed as “water” beyond the point where Budha Nullah falls in it. There is no oxygen in the river water beyond that point.
The biological oxygen demand (BOD) and chemical oxygen demand (COD) that are other vital parameters for calculating the pollution levels in a water body are at places thousands time more than the minimum prescribed standards.
The Tribune has data collected by scientists from 10 points along the river in Punjab since the past 10 years. The scientists have collected the data from Nangal, Anandpur Sahib, Bunga Sahib, Ropar, Phillaur (at two points), Sangowal, Yousufpur, the Chaheru bridge, Kangiwal, Peru Shah Ki Dargah and the Malsian bridge.
In 1997, average dissolved oxygen at Yosufpur was 4.82 mg/litre. However, in 2006, it reduced to just 1.49/mg/litre. Beyond this point, the dissolved oxygen in the river water is nil. The level of ozygen in the water has been nil since 1996 and there was no improvement in the situation even in 2006 or till August, 2007.
At Yosufpur, the BOD was 11.7 mg/litre in 1997. After about 10 years, it has increased to 57.6 mg/litre. Further downstream at the Chaheru bridge, it has increased from 215.4 mg/litre to 1,124 mg/litre. The ideal BOD for normal drinking water is 3 mg/litre.
The COD at Yosufpur was 49 mg/litre in 1996. It had increased to 164 mg/litre in 2006. Downstream from that point, it has grown to levels of 8281 mg/litre, 1200, 663 and 475 mg/litre.
The fecal coliform numbers (another parameter indicating pollution levels) have increased along the entire stretch of the river. The numbers now range from 47 per 100 ml to 25,02,461 per 100 ml. The total dissolved solvents (TDS), total suspended solvents (TSS), presence of nutrients as NH3, NO2 and NO3 and chlorides have also increased in the river.
The scientists have blamed the increasing pollution in the river to the failure of the authorities concerned (read Punjab Pollution Control Board) to regulate the discharge of pollution loads in the form of industrial effluents in the river. Under the Sutlej action plan, six sewerage treatment plants (three at Ludhiana, two at Phagwara and one at Jalandhar) were to be commissioned. However, none of these have been commissioned yet.