THE recent decision of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) wherein Rs 3 Crores have been imposed as penalty on erring Government officials and polluters of Doodh Ganga river in Srinagar/Budgam areas is being hailed by people at large. While I appreciate people acknowledging my efforts of filing a petition in the National Green Tribunal (NGT), personally, the decision doesn’t sit well with me. NGT imposed a huge penalty on the erring officials but at the same time Government officials have violated all the environmental laws in the past which makes the penalty seem justified.
Unfortunately, the mistakes and blunders committed by officers 10 to 15 years back have to be rectified by the newly posted officers in Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) which is an arduous task now. Additionally, the issue of unscientific construction of thirteen pump stations on Doodh Ganga from Chanapora to Tengpora via Barzulla and Bulbul Bagh seems to be complicated as the setting up of STPs and their connection with pumping stations is a herculean task. Had this work been taken up 10 to 15 years back the things would have been altogether different today.
However, the Commissioner cannot be blamed as these blunders have been bequeathed from the past from his predecessors.
Why have laws like Water Act 1974 or institutions like NGT been constituted in the first place if they aren’t followed to the Tee. There is wisdom behind these and their violation is bound to create chaos. The Doodh Ganga is a case in point. It is now like a drain as all the sewage is pumped into it with official permission from UEED or SMC.
SMC’s world bank funded project
SMC is currently implementing a World Bank funded scheme for upgradation of 49 Pumping Stations in and around Srinagar City. Three of the envisaged works are under execution in the Barzulla area. However, of the projects, three are ill conceived and suffer from serious technical flaws. For example, in the case of BulbulBagh pump station, SMC is proposing to transport the drainage effluent from a far off commercial hub near Tengpora bypass bridge to the centrally located residential area against the natural gradient. This will be followed by depositing the same liquid waste in waters of Doodh Ganga. Had the station been proposed in the peripheral area itself, there would have been an option of dumping the drainage waters into the Flood Spell Channel which is located less than ½ km away from the site.
SMC can create an environmental disaster by dumping output from these three closely situated Pumping Stations into a lively water stream, which at an upstream position, hosts a Water Filtration Plant and which currently do not have waters even fit for drinking. This is a clear violation of Water Prevention and Control of Pollution Act (Water Act 1974).
A Pumping Station located in the VIP area of Barzulla that was functional for the last around 40 years was incorporated in the World Bank funded scheme JTFRP for upgradation. At the time of executing the work, SMC shifted the site by 300 metres from the VIP area into a nearby Mohalla inhabited by the Children of lesser God, which was having its own ERA-managed efficient drainage lines and got no benefits from this upgradation work. It shall have only to bear with the health hazards posed by the pollutants emanating from the Pumping Station for all times to come.
Work Against Natural Gradient
This upgraded Pumping Station at Bulbul Bagh which is located in the midst of a hapless population and at a mere distance of 10 metres from a Masjid has been proposed with a capacity of 15 cusecs as against the currently existing capacity of 0.75 Cusec. This means that it will be pumping 20 times more liquid waste into Doodh Gaga after getting commissioned. This proposed pump station is supposed to have two feeding areas, one comprising Bulbul Bagh Lanes 1, 2, 3 and 4. Another feeding area connected to the station is the one towards the Gangbugh- Tengpora Bypass Bridge. In this second area, drainage effluent from big commercial installations shall flow, into the heart of Bulbul Bagh, against the natural gradient as river Dood Ganga flows in the opposite direction. SMC is again proposing to dump the drainage waste/ effluent into the Doodh Ganga river in clear violation of Water Act 1974.
The selection of construction site more judiciously, on the Bulbul Bagh Doodh ganga embankment , some 200 metres from the current working site towards the Bye-Pass Bridge would have served as solution to all associated problems.
Firstly, the drainage wastes/ effluent from such a site can be directed directly for a dumping into the Flood Channel after installing an STP. Secondly, the facility at such a location shall be functioning outside the densely populated areas. Thirdly, the associated drainage lines shall be carrying the effluent in the direction of the natural gradient and not against it, as is the case/ flaw with the current arrangement.
If the shifting of the drainage system is not possible under present circumstances, SMC may segregate the By-Pass side feeding area for a construction of a new drainage station in that particular area. At the same time, SMC can decrease the motoring capacity from 15 cusec to 5 cusec with a commensurate downward revision of the size of the Control Room Building. The pump stations at Chanapora Sluice and Pamposh colony will also be pumping huge quantities of untreated liquid waste into Doodh Ganga.
The NGT slashed penalty of Rs 3 cores on the Government ( erring officials and polluters) is fully justified as Water Act is not a new law. This law is in operation for the last 46 years and if mistakes have been committed in the past, the previous planners who allowed drainage to go into Doodh Ganga untreated in SMC limits should also be taken to task. One is in hopeful anticipation of the new plan of action by the Govt especially the SMC, Urban Local Bodies,Rural Sanitation, UEED and Geology and Mining in the matter. Recently, the Principal Secretary Housing and Urban Development Department too called a meeting of senior officers including DCs of Srinagar Budgam, Commissioner SMC and Chief Engineers of Irrigation & Flood Control , UEED and Director Geology & Mining.
Srinagar Smart City Project has been the rage of the town recently. The Doodh Ganga can also beautified under it from Bagh-e-Mehtab to Barzulla. Small STPs can be installed at multiple locations as that is the only solution to stop drainage of untreated sewage into this waterbody.