I remember as a child and then as young man in the 70’s. Every thing you saw seemed to smoke. The heroes were smoking on screen. I remember Devanand Saheb in the song” Har fikar ko dhuen me udata chala gaya, mai zindagi ka sath nibhata chala gaya”. Chimneys were also smoking. That was developing India. Remember dense black smoke coming out of the chimney in the song” Chodo kal ki baatein, kal ki baat purani, naye daur mein likhenge hum milkar nayi kahani. It was in these smoking trains that travelers had the pleasure of seeing miles of country side. It was in these smoking trains that travelers had the pleasure of seeing miles of country side. A country side, wide and beautiful but, then, interspersed with acres of acrid, smelling, darkly coloured bodies of water. The technology and will of yester years tolerated this. These were effluents coming out of industries, slowly poisoning the water sources (Moving bodies of water are natural reactors with capacity for self cleansing. Ground water bodies are more critical. Once polluted, they are very difficult to treat to treat.) The large scale storage of untreated or partially treated waste waters into lagoons, ponds, ditches and on land caused pollutants to leach into ground water. Large areas in East U.P. especially in areas adjoining the erstwhile ‘Captainganj’ now Khushinagar complained of coloured ground water from tube wells. The govt. was regularly questioned by concerned legislators. This was supposed to have been caused by distillery effluents. In West U.P. in areas adjoining ‘Garh Mukhteshwar, Gajraula, Simbhaoli and Hapur, spent wash in the 1980’s was left to be stored in lagoons (the prevalent means of treatment then) for months together. Inadequate linings caused leaching of pollutants into the ground water.
While pollution was largely ignored in the initial stages of global development, the earliest strategies were based on dilution and dispersion. This was followed by treatment options and finally to concepts of resource conservation and green productivity which rested mainly on recovery, recycle and reuse and economic instruments like ‘Pollution Charges’ and ‘Public Perception’.
Ground water is a scarce resource and the only means of fresh water in most of the villages having inadequate piped water supply. Pollution was an infringement on this resource and led to public reactions. (Distilleries are technically now one of the most environmental friendly sector of industries. The high BOD effluents are used to generate biogas and used in the boilers. This has led to savings in fuel costs and lots of air pollution. The primary treated effluents from biogas generators are mixed with press mud from sugar industries and aerobically digested to give compost which is being sold extensively in the market. Technologies like multi effect evaporation and reverse osmosis were introduced. Zero discharge on Corporate Environmental Responsibility)
Industrial effluents do have a high potential to impact ground water. Instances have been reported where direct discharge of effluents into ground water has been unscrupulously followed. I remember an instance where orange coloured raw ground water was reported from the Sahibabad area in Ghaziabad. It was just that a few tiles at the base of a tank used to store orange coloured effluents was removed and the effluents had leached. The industry was then closed by the Pollution Control Board (Section 33A of Water Prevention and Control of Pollution, Act 1974 has empowered the State Pollution Boards to issue directions to restrain Pollution and These direction could include the directions to close down the industry, operation or process, suspend water supply or suspend power supply.) It is encouraging to note that industry today is more proactive in its role towards the environment. Thirty years ago even the more progressive ones looked towards easier options and indiscriminate dumping was one of them. Plating effluents from the small and tiny sectors units found their way into drains in densely populated areas. At the Lohia Nagar started area in Ghaziabad, some bigger ones also contributed. Tube wells and pumps at Lohia Nagar Started showing chromium- a toxic pollutant. An action plan has been drawn up for the remediation of ground water at Lohia Nagar, Ghaziabad based on both microbial and electrolytic removal technologies. New deeper tube wells have been provided. The industries are contributing towards the implementation of the action plan.
Tanneries at Kanpur have contributed immensely to the economic development of the state. In the process, however, they have been a cause of immense environmental concern. Chrome tanning generates effluents as well as Chromium bearing sludge. Both have been a source of ground and surface water pollution. A waste disposal site has been developed at Rooma in Kanpur But now lies exhausted in capacity. Sludge is lying indiscriminately disposed at places and at the combined effluent treatment plant at Jajmau in Kanpur. The combined chrome recovery unit and the Combined Effluent treatment plant at Jajmau have severe operational problems. All this is effecting both the surface and ground water and may need immediate attention. Chromium levels are high.
The growth of Tanneries at Kanpur also promoted the growth of ancillary industry. Basic chrome sulphate (use for tanning leather furnishing) units did brisk business. The process generates enormous quantitities of hazardous sludge- almost equal to the production capacities. Thousand of tones of Basic chrome sulphate sludge has been dumped illegally at Kanpur by these units. Chromium levels in ground water in the adjoining areas are very high. Areas in Panki, Juhi, Jajmau, Nauraiya Khera and Khanchandpur in Kanpur Dehat are under severe ground water quality stress with hundreds of people at severe risk.
Chemical pollution of ground water especially through anthropogenic heavy metals is critical because it is the long term exposure to small concentrations that is vital. Heavy metals along with geogenic fluorides and Arsenic are also not easily biodegradables but are bioaccumulative. They may also transform in nature to form toxins. Effects may show after years of exposure. It takes tremendous efforts to repurify ground water. Pollution of ground water has to be avoided at all costs.
The Environment Protection Act 1986 provides for the regulation of indiscriminate disposal of hazardous wastes and chemicals. The Hazardous wastes (Management and Tran boundary Movement) Rules 2011 provide for setting up of combined treatment, storage and disposal facilities for hazardous wastes. Uttar Pradesh now boasts of 04 state of the art facilities, two at Kumbhi, Kanpur Dehat, one at Rooma and one at Banthar in Unnao. This has enough capacity to deal with land fillable, recyclable and incinerable hazardous wastes. Some industries have their own captive systems. Care is being taken to ensure that hazardous wastes are no longer indiscriminately disposed. Both the state Government and the Central Government oprate schemes for the remediation of illegal waste dump sites. Forty percent of the cost of remediation of illegal waste dump sites. Forty percent of the cost of remediation can be borne by the Central Government, 30% has to be borne by the state government and the balance of 30% will have to be met either through the PPP mode or under the Polluter pays principle. Schemes are being drawn up for the 04 illegal dumpsites.
The impact of certain categories of hazardous wastes is banned by the MoEF in consonance to the Basel Convention. Acceptance of hazardous wastes from other states is not permitted by U.P. This will help in regulating the indiscriminate dumping of waste and will have a very positive impact on ground water quality.
All said and done, the problem is severe. It needs both external and self regulation to prevent anthropogenic pollutants from entering ground waters. Residential and commercial areas may have to be cleaned up of tiny sector highly toxic operations like plating, battery manufacture etc. Water is critical and so is our existence.