Safe water plan in the works, govt to tackle ammonia threat

Extremely high levels of pollution in Yamuna over the last two weeks had forced water treatment plants to stop producing potable water, leading to shortages in the city. A solution is now in the works.

The problem of water supply being affected due to rise in ammonia in Yamuna has been recurring for some years. However, if the government is to be believed, the supply to households won’t be hit after three months as a new plan is being devised.

Under the new system, water supply from Haryana will be cut off from the Wazirabad pond if the ammonia levels rise. Instead, Delhi Jal Board’s treatment plants will draw water directly from the Western Yamuna Canal through a pipeline.

Apart from giving water from the Western Yamuna Canal, Haryana sometimes releases it directly through the course of the river.

While the water from the canal is not contaminated, water taken directly from the river flows over a riverbed containing pollutants, resulting in a rise in ammonia levels.

“Around January 19, Haryana government stopped releasing water from the canal due to an incident and instead discharged it through the riverbed which is dry and heavily polluted with industry effluents from Panipat and Sonepat, and beyond treatment, forcing closure of Wazirabad and Chandrawal plants,” said a senior DJB official.

The acceptable limit of ammonia in raw water is 0.5 parts per million (ppm).

“If the quantity increases beyond that, the operation of treatment of raw water has to be suspended as ammonia, with the treating agent chlorine gives rise to trihalomethane, which is carcinogenic in nature,” Delhi’s Water Minister Kapil Mishra had earlier said.

According to the new plan, if the ammonia levels rise again, the DJB will take the clean water directly from the Western Yamuna Canal and cut off the supply of contaminated water to its plants from the Wazirabad pond.

“We have told Haryana not to release water from the river course, but we can’t stop pollutants coming into the river from there. Through this new pipeline, at least our plants won’t be affected,” Kapil Mishra told Deccan Herald.

“The work is being taken up on a war-footing and is likely to be completed in three months,” he said.

During the last two weeks, the DJB had to curtail the operations of its Wazirabad and Chandrawal Plant by 50 per cent and once even by 100 per cent.

Mishra suggested that after the project is completed, plants won’t be hit so hard and will not be completely shut.

The National Green Tribunal had this week slammed the DJB over rising ammonia levels and asked what action it was taking.

After high levels of ammonia ranging between 2 and 2.5 ppm were traced in the river, Mishra wrote a letter to Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti, asking her to intervene as “Haryana has been releasing untreated sewage and industrial waste into the river”.

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