Effluents dumped in soaking pits

the Punjab Pollution Control Board (ppcb) has issued notices to about 500 industrial units in Ludhiana over groundwater pollution in the area. The units allegedly discharge their effluents into soaking pits, some of which are 70 feet (just over 20 metres) deep.

The industries in question include manufacturing units for cycling parts, auto parts, dyeing units and hardware manufacturers, who reportedly use the soaking pits for their domestic as well as industrial effluents.

The notices have caused outrage among the powerful industrial lobby. Juginder Singh, president, Federation of Punjab Small Industries Association, said, "The area in question was declared an industrial area in 1992, when the municipal corporation ought to have provided us with the basic amenities and infrastructure like sewerage, water facility, sanitation, roads and lights. Since nothing was done by them, despite the license fee, house tax and development fee, some of us started using our own soaking pits for discharge of the effluent. All of a sudden, it is impossible for the industries to shut down their plants within 15 days.'

Malvinder Singh, member secretary ppcb agrees, "It is indeed the local authorities who ought to be blamed for being totally ignorant of the situation. Our actions were based on what was reported to us. We followed up the reports by a survey and then the notices were issued.' He said that the domestic effluents may be treated in the soaking pits, "while the industrial effluents will have to be recycled till alternative arrangements have been made.' Singh stressed the urgent need for a sewer in the area. The ppcb has sent samples of the groundwater for analysis, and the report is expected in about two weeks.

The municipal corporation commissioner has promised a sewer in the area by the year-end but the industry is doubtful about its implementation. Meanwhile, the industrialists have forwarded their complaints to the chief minister, the municipal corporation and the ppcb.