Delhi v/s Haryana: The Spike in Ammonia Levels in the Yamuna

By: Adelle Fernandes

The impact of increasing pollution caused by a spike in ammonia levels in the Yamuna is being noted in frequent disruption to Delhi’s water supply. On at least five instances this year, high levels of ammonia in the river have prompted the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) to reduce or stop water production at its plants. The most recent spike was noted early this week, with ammonia levels shooting up to 7.3 parts per million (ppm) at the Wazirabad pond area, where DJB draws water from, against its acceptable limit of 0.5 ppm.

DJB vice chairman and Aam Aadmi Party leader Raghav Chadha blamed the Haryana government on Tuesday for releasing industrial effluents in the river “despite repeated reminders.” He also asked the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Upper Yamuna River Board (UYRB) to look into the issue and sternly deal with “irresponsible behavior” of the Haryana government.

What is ammonia?

Ammonia is a colorless and pungent gaseous compound of nitrogen and hydrogen that is soluble in water. It is used as an industrial chemical in the production of fertilizers, plastic, dyes and other products. Ammonia occurs naturally in the environment from the breakdown of organic waste matter, and may also find its way to ground and surface water sources through industrial effluents or through contamination by sewage. Long term consumption of water with ammonia levels of 1 ppm or above may cause damage to internal organs.

Why blame Haryana?

The Yamuna flows into Delhi from Haryana, which has industrial units in Sonipat, which is close to Delhi’s northern border. A specific area where both Haryana and Delhi agree on is the mixing of two drains carrying drinking water and sewage or industrial waste or both in Sonipat district. Drain number 8 brings potable water to the capital and drain 6 carries wastewater. The two drains often mix due to overflow or damage to the wall that acts as a divider between them. Haryana’s irrigation department is expected to start a tendering process to build a conduit pipeline and prevent the mixing of two drains, officials said, as reported in the Indian Express.

Haryana government officials also state that the issue is being raised frequently by Delhi because it wants more water to be released into the Yamuna to meet the city’s growing water demand. DJB VC Chadha also said on Tuesday that the city at present receives “much less than the share of water we deserve.”

The solution

Haryana officials and those in the DJB state that the Board should increase its capacity to treat ammonia levels in the water. In a recent meeting, Satyendar Jain, Water Minister has instructed that ozone-based units to treat ammonia levels up to 4ppm must be installed at Chandrawal and Wazirabad water treatment plants.

It is imperative for there to be a conduit pipeline to separate drain number 8 and 6, however, it is not clear when this will be completed. The National Green Tribunal-appointed Yamuna Monitoring Committee has also said that fast-track approvals should be given to build a conduit, which will play a major role in reducing the pollution of portable water.

Moreover, early this year, the Committee also put forth a recommendation to the Ministry of Jal Shakti to rework the 1994 water sharing pact between Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh. This recommendation is based on the need to revive the Yamuna by releasing more fresh water into it, which would help maintain an environmental flow for the river to sustain its functions throughout the year.

References:

https://www.wqa.org/learn-about-water/common-contaminants/ammonia

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/dirty-water-wars-why-its-delhi-versus-haryana-on-yamunas-ammonia-levels-7125420/

https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/high-levels-of-ammonia-in-yamuna-water-6527247/

Picture Sources:

1. Business Standard

2. The Tribune

Adelle Fernandes

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