Pollution board officials inform environment minister that only nine of 22 effluent discharge plants that the local bodies department maintains are in working condition.

In a turn of events that would cause embarrassment to the state local bodies department, environment minister OP Soni has directed the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB) staff to take samples of discharge from Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs), get them tested prepare a record and seek monthly compliance report from the local bodies department.

The plants come under the local bodies department.

The minister’s action came after PPCB engineers informed him, at a stock-taking meeting held under the Tandarust Punjab Mission on Thursday, that the local bodies department takes samples of effluents discharged after treatment, conducts tests, but fudges figures to show that toxicity is all right.

At the meeting, the PPCB also conveyed to the minister that the local bodies department had set up effluent-testing laboratories in all 22 districts, but in a recent check the board had found only seven in working condition.

“We have sought remarks from the department,” the officials said. “Ask your engineers to get the discharge tested so that the local bodies department can be countered,” said Soni, asking the staff to check if untreated effluents were being discharged.

“If any of the treatment plants is discharging untreated effluents initiate action by issuing notices,” he said..

“The local bodies department still has 129 sewage treatment plants to install. It has installed 88 STPs in 66 cities,” the minister was also told at the meeting, where the focus remained on the discharge of effluents.

The other issues discussed at the meeting were tree plantation, eradicating Harike wetland of hyacinth, steps to check pollution caused by industries, cleaning of the Holy Bein and curbing paddy stubble burning.

Incidentally, the two ministers, local bodies minister, Navjot Singh Sidhu, and Soni have been elected from adjacent constituencies. Soni is MLA Amritsar (central), while Sidhu is the legislator from Amritsar (East).

‘All STPs will be functional by next year’

“Who is to be blamed for the molasses spillage in Beas,” responded a senior official of

the local bodies department, on the condition of anonymity, to the environment minister’s directive. The officer added that his department was taking steps to ensure 40 sewage treatment plants were functional by the end of this year. “Nineteen such plants are already functional. By next year, all treatment plants would be functional,” he added.

‘Need political backing to check stubble burning’

As the minister asked the PPCB staff to make arrangements in advance to check burning of stubble after paddy harvest in October-November, principal secretary environment, science and technology, Roshan Sunkaria, told the minister that it was not possible without political will and backing.

“Actions that the PPCB has initiated have never reached their logical conclusion,” said Sunkaria. At this, Soni added he would take up the matter with chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh for a policy decision.

Sunkaria also suggested changing the name of the PPCB to Punjab Pollution Prevention and Control Board (PPPCB).

Source: July 13, 2018, Hindustan Times