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Huge 46 times rise in pollution level after Modi's 'favourite' Sabarmati riverfront ends

PSS activists Krishnakant and Rohit Prajapati displaying water samples
By Our Representative
In a major exposure, a joint investigation by an environmental organisation, Paryavaran Surksha Samiti (PSS), and a farmers’ rights organisation, Khedut Ekta Manch (KEM), has revealed that the pollution level of Sabarmati river in Ahmedabad rises by a whopping 46 times – from the chemical oxygen demand (COD) of 4 mg/litre to COD to 184 mg/litre 25 kilomtres after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s 11-kilmetre-long high-profile Sabarmati Riverfront ends at Vasna barrage.
Releasing the results along with samples PSS activists Rohit Prajapati and Krishnakant, and KEM’s Sagar Rabari, in a letter to the secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Government of India, chairman, Central Pollution Control Board, their counterparts in Gujarat, the Gujarat chief secretary and the municipal commissioner, Ahmedabad, have sought immediate criminal proceedings against “polluting industries, treatment facilities, and those officers who failed in discharging their duties thereby endangering the life and livelihoods of millions of people.”
Based on the samples taken on February 10 and 11 at nine different places, starting at the spot where Narmada canal waters are pumped into Sabarmati for filling up the riverfront, Karai, and ending at Miroli village, 25 kilometres from the Vasna barrage, where the riverfront ends, the analysis, says the letter, suggests post-Vasna barrage, for about 120 kilometres, the two sewage treatment plant (STP) discharges and three industrial effluent discharges continue dumping effluents which are “critically higher than the prescribed norms.
The letter seeks action against the culprits against the backdrop of Supreme Court deadline to implement its order dated February 22, 2017, in the Writ Petition (Civil) No 375 of 2012 (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anrs V/s Union of India & Ors). “The deadline asked top officials of each state, including Gujarat, to create necessary preconditions by February 22, 2020 to ensure that the quality of river waters are are kept within norms”, Prajapati said.
Activists take Sabarmati water samples
However, the senior environmentalist regretted, “Despite the fact that state environment officials know of very high pollution levels in Sabarmati, which even was brought to light through a joint investigation by and the Gujarat Pollution Control Board on March 12, 2019, requisite steps have not been taken.”
Prajapati warned, if the officials, including the Gujarat chief secretary, the state environment secretary and the GPCB chairman, do not act immediately, they would again approach the Supreme Court to begin criminal proceedings against them. “At stake is the health of people, who are forced to consume vegetables produced along the riverbed with effluent waters”, he added.

Text of the letter:

Our letters dated 01.04.2019, and 24.06.2019 were sent to you about under-treated / untreated effluents and sewage discharge into the Sabarmati River after Vasna Barrage. Copies of the letters are attached herewith the letter. The Sabarmati River has been reduced to an effluent carrying channel for the industries of Naroda, Odhav, Vatva, Narol, and sewage from Ahmedabad city.
We have not yet received any response from you. And it is awful and shocking. Silence cannot and should not be the answer for such a critical issue. All the deadlines to implement the Order dated 22.02.2017, of the Supreme Court in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 375 of 2012 (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anrs V/s Union of India & Ors) are over on 22.02.2020.
A joint investigation by Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti and Gujarat Pollution Control Board, on 12 March 2019, of the pollution levels in the prime water source of Ahmedabad District – the Sabarmati River re-established the already known dire state of the River Sabarmati flowing through and downstream of Ahmedabad city.
On 10 and 11 February, 2020, pursuant to the Supreme Court Order dated 22.02.2017, in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 375 of 2012 and the regular monitoring by National Green Tribunal Principal Bench at New Delhi, sampling and analysis of water samples of Sabarmati River were done by Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti and Khedut Ekta Manch. The results of the analysis has again confirmed the challenging reality on ground.
Untreated effluent released in Sabarmati
It is now known and admitted reality that untreated and poorly treated industrial effluent and sewage of Ahmedabad city have made Sabarmati River very critically polluted. Pursuant to the investigation on 12 March 2019 by Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti and Gujarat Pollution Control Board, another sampling and analysis of the pollution levels has again revealed that there is little improvement in the ground reality, thus establishing that the responsible authorities like GPCB, AMC, industries and the MoEF&CC have failed to check the rampant violation of environment norms and Supreme Court order dated 22.02.2017 and have blatantly disregarded directions issued from time to time by the NGT Principal Bench, New Delhi.
The stretch of the Sabarmati River passing through the Ahmedabad city, before the Riverfront, is dry and within the Riverfront Project stretch, is brimming with stagnant Water. In the last 120 kilometres, before meeting the Arabian Sea, it is “dead” and has become a stream carrying only industrial effluent and sewage.
The same water from the Sabarmati River is being used by the farmers for agriculture purpose, mainly for the cultivation of vegetables, which are sold in Ahmedabad and nearby rural or semi-urban areas. The pollutants are thus entering into the food chain and causing major damage to the overall health of the people as also contributing to life-threatening diseases.
The downstream farmers have the right to clean irrigation water for farming of which they are deprived only due to the dereliction of duty of the concerned officers putting the life of lakhs of people at stake. This needs to be addressed by the GPCB, AMC and the Government of Gujarat.
As an immediate measure, criminal proceedings must be initiated against polluting industries, treatment facilities, and those officers who failed in discharging their duties thereby endangering the life and livelihoods of millions of people.
The analysis reports of water samples taken on 10 and 11 February 2020 are shocking and reveal the persisting and disastrous condition of Sabarmati River in and around Ahmedabad city and about 120 kilometres downstream. 
Another spot where effluent released in Sabarmati

Sabarmati River no longer has any fresh water of its own when it enters the city of Ahmedabad. The Sabarmati Riverfront has merely become a pool of stagnant water sourced from Narmada canal. While the river, downstream of the riverfront, has been reduced to a channel carrying only effluents from industries from Naroda, Odhav, Vatva, Narol, and sewage from Ahmedabad city. 
The drought like condition of the Sabarmati River intensified by the Riverfront Development has resulted in poor groundwater recharge and increased dependency on the already ailing Narmada River. The investigation raises fundamental questions against both, the polluting industries that discharge their untreated effluents into the Sabarmati River, and the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation that discharges their poorly treated, untreated sewage into the Sabarmati River. 
The Gujarat Pollution Control Board's top cadre officials have failed in their duties and responsibilities to protect the Sabarmati River’s water quality, in spite of the Supreme Court Order dated 22.02.2017, directing strict compliance of effluent treatment standards, continuous monitoring, and closure of defaulting industries and Orders dated 03.08.2018 and 28.08.2019 of the National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, Delhi, in Original Application No. 593 of 2017 (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anr V/s Union of India & Ors) for implementation of the Supreme Court order and National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, Delhi, Order, dated 06.12.2019, in Original Application No. 673 of 2018. 
Even after 11 months from the joint investigation of PSS and GPCB, the pollution and violation persists blatantly, raising questions on efficacy and work culture of the pollution monitoring and enforcement authorities. 
The alarmingly critical and dangerous levels of pollution, far exceeding permissible levels, as recorded in the investigation report, are summarised below:
  • Narmada River water is being released through Narmada canal into the Sabarmati River and it has COD 4 mg/l, BOD is BDL, and TDS 189 mg/l.
  • The Water in Sabarmati Riverfront has COD 16 mg/l, BOD 0.7 mg/l, 12.7 mg/l Sulphate, 54.9 mg/l Chloride, and 358 mg/l TDS. 
  • The First Outfall of STP of Ahmedabad after Vasna Barrage (After Sabarmati Riverfront) 160 MLD has 336 mg/l COD, 27.5 mg/l BOD, 38.4 mg/l Sulphate, 249 mg/l Chloride, and 912 mg/l TDS. 
  • The Second Outfall industrial effluent of Ahmedabad after Vasna Barrage – Storm Water Drain from Dani Limda (After Sabarmati Riverfront) has 816 mg/l COD, 390 mg/l BOD, 180.5 mg/l Sulphate, 1449 mg/l Chloride, and 3135 mg/l TDS. 
  • The Third Outfall of STP of Ahmedabad after Vasna Barrage has 264 mg/l COD, and 36 mg/l BOD. 
  • The Fourth Outfall of Industrial Effluent from Naroda, Odhav, and Vatva industrial Estates (Mega Pipeline) after Vasna Barrage (After Sabarmati Riverfront) 40 MLD has 488 mg/l COD, 53.33 mg/l BOD, 66.6 mg/l Sulphate, 269 mg/l Chloride, and 1006 mg/l TDS. 
  • The Fifth Outfall of Industrial Effluent of Narol after Vasna Barrage (After Sabarmati Riverfront) 100 MLD has 400 mg/l COD, 35 mg/l BOD, 1010 mg/l Sulphate, 4698 mg/l Chloride, and 8575 mg/l TDS. 
  • Miroli Village pumping station 21 kms. downstream of Vasna Barrage has 184 mg/l COD, 37.5 mg/l BOD, 111.6 mg/l Sulphate, 489 mg/l, Chloride, and 1651 mg/l TDS. 
The following investigation report speaks for itself.

We would like to emphasize that two STPs sewage discharges, and 3 three industrial effluent discharges which are critically polluted, critically higher than the prescribed norms are being dumped into the location downstream of Vasna Barrage, onwards which the Sabarmati River is completely dry. Actually, we should not allow at all any discharge of even so-called treated effluent and sewerage into the river stretch where river is dry. This amounts to murdering the river and it is a criminal offence on the part of industry, concerned authorities, Government of Gujarat, and State of Gujarat.
The pathetic and dismal condition of the Sabarmati River is a cause of grave concern for the health of the people of the Ahmedabad city and the villages around Sabarmati River downstream of Riverfront who rely on the river water for their daily use and livelihood. Some of the major direct and indirect effects of the high levels of pollution on the people and environment includes contamination of ground water, food contamination, associated health hazards, loss of natural river habitat, depletion of ground water levels due to lack of water recharge, loss of flora and fauna, etc. 
Urgent action is necessitated in light of these findings to rejuvenate and restore the Sabarmati River and its water quality, which calls for the strict implementation of the Supreme Court Order by the concerned authorities.
We demand that:
  1. GPCB immediately issues closure notices to all the defaulting polluting industries located in and around Ahmedabad industrial clusters, in implementation of the Supreme Court Order dated 22.02.2017. 
  2. GPCB immediately issues closer notices to all the defaulting CETPs of the Ahmedabad industrial cluster, in implementation of the Supreme Court Order dated 22.02.2017. 
  3. GPCB immediately issues notices to the Municipal Commissioner of Ahmedabad to ensure compliance by all STPs in the area. 
  4. GPCB files criminal cases against the all owners/directors of the defaulting polluting industries, the officers of the CETPs, and the Municipal Commissioner of Ahmedabad. 
  5. MoEFCC should not allow at all any discharge of even so-called treated effluent and sewage into the Sabarmati river stretch where river is dry. This amounts to murdering the river and it is a criminal offence. 
  6. The GPCB investigates and prepares further detailed reports about the ground water contamination as well as contamination of the food grains, vegetables, and fodder. 
  7. Ensures Interim Exemplary Monetary Compensation along with medical services to the farmers and villagers who have suffered from the surface water and groundwater pollution. 
  8. Immediately pay Interim compensation per season per acre to the farmers who are forced to use contaminated Sabarmati River water and groundwater for irrigation of agricultural land and, hence, are facing several severe health and related socio-economic problems. 
  9. Appoint a competent interdisciplinary committee of officials and field experts to assess the ongoing and past damages to quantify the real compensation payable to the farmers for the damage done. 
  10. Implement, in letter and spirit, the Order, dated 22.02.2017, of the Supreme Court in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 375 of 2012 (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anr V/s Union of India & Ors) and National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, Delhi Order, dated 03.08.2018 and 28.08.2019, in Original Application No. 593 of 2017, (Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti & Anr V/s Union of India & Ors), and National Green Tribunal, Principal Bench, Delhi, Order, dated 06.12.2019, in Original Application No. 673 of 2018. 
We expect your prompt and positive response in the interest of lives, livelihoods, and environment of all the concerned areas cities, towns, villages, and hamlets around the Sabarmati River.
If you do not act now, your inaction shall be considered as non-compliance of the Hon’ble Supreme Court order, dated 22.02.2017, in our PIL – Writ Petition (Civil) 375 of 2012 and may invite further necessary actions.

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