As brackish water continues to flow through canals, Punjab AAP leader Seechewal tells voters to prioritise environment

Tuesday was the fifth day in a row when brackish water flowed in the canal network of southwest Punjab, raising questions about the state government’s seriousness on environment-related matters. Water was released on April 18 from the Sirhind feeder after more than a month. The feeder was closed on March 15 for canal-relining work. However, the water is muddy and has a foul smell, according to farmers. The Sirhind canal originates from Rupnagar in Punjab. While passing through Ludhiana , it bifurcates into three branches—Abohar, Patiala and Bathinda—and then further divides into sub-canals to feed a large swathe of the Malwa region. Southwest Malwa, spanning across Bathinda, Muktsar, Mansa and Fazilka, among other districts, is entirely dependent on canal water as groundwater in this area is unfit for drinking owing to high salinity. Alamdeep Singh Smagh from Danewalia village of Abohar said, “It is sad that the canal department is passing the buck by saying that water quality will improve gradually… Nothing will happen but fresh water will only dilute the polluted water… Look at the casual approach of the authorities.” Darshan Singh Giddranwali, a member of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (Rajewal) from Fazilka district, said, “After a gap of a month, we had to water our kinnow orchards, and look at the quality of water being supplied. The canal and pollution departments are not bothered at all.” Sukhwinder Singh Jakhar, from Patrewala village of Abohar, said, “We are dependent only on canal water as groundwater in most of the Malwa is unfit for drinking. Polluted water keeps on adding from Ludhiana and further from other areas all along in the Sutlej river, which is thus sent to canals. After one month of canal closure, the department stands exposed as discoloured water is coming in the canals.” Sukhjinder Singh Rajan, an Abohar-based farmer, said the canal water is filtered and used for drinking purposes in places such as Fazilka, Muktsar and Bathinda. “We are drinking a slow poison,” he added. Question for AAP’s environmentalist MP Sukhmandar Singh, president of the BKU Rajewal, said, “We would like to know what environmentalist Balbir Singh Seechewal, who is also a Rajya Sabha member of the AAP, has to say about his own government now.” When The Indian Express contacted Seechewal, he said, “I have visited areas like Abohar and Fazilka regularly and the polluted water coming in canals a number of times. Municipal waste gets added from Ludhiana or some other areas too. As of now the capacity of the sewerage treatment plant of Ludhiana is 850 million litres per day, while the requirement is of 650 MLD. “However, a 225-MLD plant is not working fully owing to some litigation in the Supreme Court. Otherwise, this problem will be resolved to a great extent. However, municipal waste is being added to the Sutlej river. We can’t deny this fact and it must stop. I appeal to voters to demand clean drinking water and clean air from candidates as parties are not bothered about the environment. “After canal closure, the discoloured water collected in the reservoir goes in the canals ahead while after a few days it gets diluted, but this is not done. I fully understand the problem and ask people to be more vigilant towards the environment.” Fazilka Deputy Commissioner Senu Kapila Duggal told The Indian Express that the water quality would improve soon. “The water had been collected in the reservoir at the back-end near Ferozepur (for a month). Its quality will improve soon,” Duggal said. GS Majithia, member secretary of the Punjab Pollution Control Board, said, “I have asked the officers of areas concerned to get it investigated and report the matter.” However, he did not comment on the pollution of the river water. None

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