- Haryana’s Kundli industrial zone, on the outskirts of Delhi, is a prime industrial zone. But, according to local people, unchecked disposal of contaminated water into the ground is posing a threat to their health.
- Local residents complain of skin diseases and stomach-related ailments due to regular consumption of contaminated groundwater. Many are now forced to purchase clean drinking water even as they continue using the polluted groundwater for other purposes such as washing clothes.
- The industrial zone requires a common effluent treatment plant of 10 MLD (Million Litres Per Day) capacity to treat the wastewater released by factories. But the existing capacity of the plant is only 4 MLD. Despite, repeated complaints to various local authorities the condition of the area remains poor.
The industrial zone in the Kundli area of Haryana’s Sonipat district has provided a livelihood to many over the last 40 years. From a sleepy village, Kundli turned into a prime-industrial zone. But this came at a price – the unchecked growth of industries resulted in air and water pollution, threatening the health of local people.
The locals allege that groundwater was contaminated by the industries as there was no check on them. As a result, they had to rely on private sources of clean water. Ironically, the need for clean water led to more industries being set up in the area to produce clean water. Locals note that these industries charge Rs. 300 rupees per month for the daily supply of 10 litres of water, cleaned through reverse osmosis. There are seven big and medium-scale water distillation plants that are active in the area and supply drinking water to the local people as the groundwater is contaminated and not fit for consumption.
During a visit to the area, Mongabay-India found that the village roads were overflowing with sewage and at many places, the foul smell from drains was unbearable as chemical-laced water was flowing unchecked.
Subhash Chand, 64, who runs a shop in front of one such drain in Kundli residential area, said that ever since factories were set up in their village, the groundwater quality has continuously deteriorated. “In 1980, Kundli village used to have clean and drinkable water but things worsened after industries were set up,” he told Mongabay-India.
Chand alleged that factories release water contaminated with chemicals directly into the ground without any fear of any action from the local administration. “It has been going on for years and now the groundwater is unsafe for anyone to drink. With this groundwater, we only wash clothes as we can’t afford distilled water for washing clothes,” he said.
Kundli, which is in close proximity to two major expressways, is an important industrial area for Haryana, a northern Indian state. It is on the outskirts of Delhi, which is India’s national capital. The local population of the area is about 30,000 but, in addition, it is also home to about 100,000 migrant workers. The Kundli industrial zone has several plastics, rubber and polyester factories of medium and large-scale. According to Kundli Industrial Association, there are about 1,500 factories currently operational in the Kundli area.
A study by Deenbandhu Chhotu Ram University of Science and Technology, Murthal in Sonipat, notes that the quality of the water in the region has become poor due to the disposal of industrial wastewater into the ground, open land areas and water bodies. It notes that such poor quality of water causes severe waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea, cholera, etc.
Ranbir Dahiya, a retired senior professor from the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Sciences (PGIMS), Rohtak, said that exposure to industrial water pollution can lead to gastric tract disease. “It can impact the reproductive system. It can also impact the growth of children. Because of severe pollution, skin diseases are quite common in these areas,” Dahiya told Mongabay-India.
Authorities failed to provide clean water
Under the Indian government’s piped-water mission, every citizen is supposed to get 55 litres of clean water per day but in Kundli, every household is forced to purchase clean water from private players.
Shanti Devi, a migrant labourer from Jhansi, who came two years ago and works in a local factory in Kundli, said. “The groundwater does not suit me … I have developed an allergy all over my body.”
She said that labourers like her have to shell out Rs. 300 per month for clean drinking water even though they cannot afford it. “But the groundwater is unfit for human consumption, so we have to buy it,” Shanti Devi added.
Abhimanyu Yadav, who has been working as a technician in a local factory for the last six years, complains of hair loss due to exposure to contaminated water. “I have rashes all over my body. The itching does not go away and I have lost hair also,” said Yadav, who hails from Uttar Pradesh.
While Manish Khatri, the head of Kundli village, rued that they have knocked on all doors ranging from the Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (HSIIDC), the agency responsible for managing industrial areas in Haryana, to the local administration, but nothing has helped so far.
He said complaints to local legislators have also not helped. “The overpopulation due to migrants has resulted in a broken drainage system. The sewage is lying on the roads and stinking. The factories are releasing untreated chemical water in the open which seeps into the ground and adversely affects the local population. It has been going on for decades under the nose of the government but no one has helped us,” Khatri told Mongabay-India.
“Those who could afford have shifted to other areas of Sonipat or to Delhi to avoid falling ill but others who could not, are suffering in silence,” he said.
Blame game over pollution
Subhash Gupta, who is the vice-president of the Kundli Industrial Association, emphasises that the factory owners are themselves worst affected due to the broken drainage systems and chemical-laced water. “Our wastewater does not go inside the earth as the CETP (Common Effluent Treatment Plant) treats the wastewater before releasing it in the open,” he said.
When asked about the contaminated groundwater, Gupta said that all the water from factories reaches the CETP and it is their responsibility to treat it. He told Mongabay-India that if the local people are complaining of chemical-laced groundwater it means the HSIIDC, which has the responsibility to run the CETP, is violating the norms.
Elaborating on the reasons for polluted groundwater, Gupta said that the existing capacity of CEPT is 4 MLD (Million Litres Per Day) while the effluent released by these factories requires a CEPT of 10 MLD capacity. “Even if the present CEPT is being run at full capacity, the rest of 6 MLD water gets released without being treated and pollutes the groundwater,” Gupta explained.
Arun Garg, senior manager at the HSIIDC, admitted that the present capacity of their effluent treatment plant is 4 MLD but informed that work is being done to add 6 MLD capacity. However, on groundwater pollution, Garg said that it was the responsibility of the Kundli Municipal Council to fix the drainage system.
When Mongabay-India contacted the Haryana State Pollution Board’s Member Secretary S. Narayanan about the alleged contamination of groundwater by industries in Kundli, he said they will verify the information before taking action.
Banner image: Effluents from factories can be seen flowing on village roads in the Kundli industrial area. Photo by Sat Singh/Mongabay.