Poisoned water

Published: Wednesday 15 March 1995

-- Under the unseeing eyes of the city's civic bodies, over 500 factories in North Delhi are severely polluting the groundwater which is used for domestic purposes. Equally reassuring for the errants is the gross inaction by the local pollution control agencies.

According to a recent Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) survey, the steel rerolling mills and pickling factories are dumping heavy metal and acids into open cesspools or drains. CPCB officials say that these pollutants permeate into the water table and find their way into the groundwater. The worst affected are the people who work in these factories or live around them, most of whom depend on hand pumps for their potable water.

None of these units has licences for processing steel, particularly in areas like the Wazirpur industrial area, the Shahadara-Maujpur industrial belt and all along the Grand Trunk Road. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) has issued licences for processing non-ferrous metals like copper, brass and aluminium. An environmental engineer with the Delhi Pollution Control Board says that the MCD is fully aware of the violations taking place, but no action has ever been initiated.

In pickling, steel heated in ovens is washed in acid to clean away the rust and dross. During this process, acid fumes are released through vents, violating the norms of using highrise chimneys.

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