Tribune News Service
Kapurthala, June 5
If you happen to visit any of the 125 villages along the 45-km-long Kala Sanghian drain in the district, you will be surprised to see how irrigation is being done in agricultural farms falling along the 1-km stretch on either side of the drain. Maybe you will never want to consume any vegetable or fruit grown here.
There are no tubewells along the entire belt of agricultural fields. The source of water for irrigation here is the dark, smelly, chemical-laced industrial waste water flowing through the drain. The stench pervasive all around in the environment makes it difficult for anyone to stand near the drain and the fields that are irrigated with this water.
Channels have been dug up all along the drain to use its water for irrigating the fields. In all those villages which are on a low gradient from the channel, the flow of water into the fields is not a problem. Water gushes through the short, underground pipes laid along the drain towards the handmade channels going to the fields. The channels of the fields which are to be irrigated are opened while those where irrigation has been done are plugged using sacks or any other plastic sheets available.
In fields which are at a little higher gradient from the drain, pumps have been installed along the channels so that the water could be collected in low chambers and then directed towards the fields. These pumps are portable and can be taken to the next fields as and when required. To save power and avoid the use of pumps, many villagers give their fields on contract so that the earth can be dug as deep as one foot or more and the ground level of the fields falls for them to make it easy to use the drain water through simple channels.
As of now, most of these villages have been sowing maize. Pumpkins and water melons too are in abundance here. Many villagers who are keeping dairy animals are also growing fodder in these villages. Interestingly, the villagers who are using this water for irrigation know very well the ill-effects of using this contaminated water and hence avoid the vegetables that they grow themselves.
Sonu, a farmer of Kala Sanghian village, said, “We are selling our entire produce in the mandi. For our own kitchen, we buy vegetables from the market. We do not even feed the fodder grown here to our buffaloes for milk consumption and buy feed from the market.”
Akali leader HS Walia said, “Just standing near Kala Sanghian drain makes anyone feel giddy, you can imagine the harm that it would be doing to the body when we consume the vegetables grown here. It is high time that the government do something concrete in this regard and ensure that this untreated industrial water is not used for irrigation. Even if the government is to allow this water to be used for agricultural purposes, the quality of the water must be tested on a daily basis by the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB).”
Environmentalist Balbir Singh Seechewal has taken up the matter with the authorities concerned. On his request, even officials, including the Chairman, of the National Green Tribunal have visited the site and passed instructions to the PPCB authorities from time to time but to no avail. The untreated industrial waste continues to flow into the drain. The STP at Basti Peer Daad still works at half the required capacity, thus allowing even the MC sullage to flow into it. Harbir Singh, Senior Environment Engineer, Jalandhar, refused to comment on the issue.