Liquid danger

Government agencies acknowledge that Delhi's water is unfit for drinking

Published: Monday 31 August 1998

"DRINK only the Delhi }al Board water," advise the numerous advertisements brought out by the Delhi government. Not really. Even the treated water coming through supply pipes is contaminated and unfit for drinking, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

An affidavit filed in the Delhi high court has vindicated the stand taken by o environmentalists that water from the Yamuna was heavily contaminated. The report sent along with the affidavit filed by S P Chakrabarti, member secretary, CPCB, says: "The results of micro-pollutants analysed in the samples of raw water and treated drinking water of Delhi at all the four water works, collected on April 20, 1998 indicated presence of pesticides, especially endosulfan...." Endosulfan in raw water at Renney well at Okhla Water Works was found to be 91.59 nanogramme per litre (ng/1), while filtered water had 24.5 ng/1 of endosulfan. Total dichloro diphenyl trichloroethane (DDT) in the raw water was 39.55 ng/1, and 29.98 ng/1 in filtered .. water. According to the CPCB, these are j above the acceptable levels set by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). Iron, nickel and copper were also in excess of the Bis limits in most of the samples.

The affidavit also states that the Yamuna is still heavily polluted between Delhi and Etawah, the predominant pollutants being organic matter and faecal coliform.

As pesticides mostly come from agricultural sources alone the Yamuna river and the West Yamuna Canal, the report suggests that this contamination can only be avoided if Delhi's raw water is transported through a conduit, pipe/concrete channel from Tajewala, which is further upstream.

A public interest petition filed by B L Wadhera, in response to which the court had sought the affidavit from the CPCB, says: "Considering that the only action the Haryana government has taken is to sack the state pollution control member for his disciplinary work, we have no choice but to take water from upstream Tajewala." Recently, the Haryana government had sacked the chairman of the Haryana State Pollution Control Board for taking action against industrial units in Haryana.

In another major finding, CPCB and the Central Ground Water Board have shown that the groundwater in Delhi has depleted so much that water from the Yamuna is seeping in and contaminating it. The 36 lakh residents of Delhi, who do not get treated tap water, are also drinking contaminated water coming from the Yamuna.

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