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Faecal waste polluting our drinking water sources ?

Third Party Drinking Water Audit should be held across J&K
12:00 AM Apr 15, 2024 IST | Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat
faecal waste polluting our drinking water sources
Doodh Ganga Water Supply Plant Kralpora. Photo: Author

Here is my response to Water Works Division Srinagar.


On April 8th 2024 the Water Works Division, Srinagar which works under Public Health Engineering-PHE, Jal Shakti Department, issued a press statement in response to my video report wherein I had highlighted high level of water pollution in Doodh Ganga stream; the major drinking water source in Srinagar uptown.


Without naming this author, the press release, carried in some local news portals, said that I must desist from issuing such statements. The concluding paragraph of the Water Works Division Srinagar’s statement reads :


Being a responsible citizen, one should desist from spreading such false information amongst masses.”


The official statement issued by Water Works Division Srinagar is not only misleading but they are actually trying to hide facts from the general public about massive pollution in Doodh Ganga which is an open fact now. I never mislead people and whatever I say or write is based on facts. People and even the Govt is aware of the fact that I have been accessing information under the Right to Information Act (RTI) for more than 15 years now.


This  information I make public through my write ups and video reports. Additionally, I seek judicial intervention as well by filing Public Interest Litigations PILs, and the documents accessed under RTI are appended an annexures with these petitions. My petitions related to water pollution, illegal riverbed mining, wetland encroachment, unscientific waste management are being heard by Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, National Green Tribunal -NGT, and J&K High Court.


The video report I recorded near Doodh Ganga water treatment plant at Kralpora in Srinagar outskirts has hit the officers of PHE Jal Shakti and they want to play safe now. I have not only quoted the reports of J&K Pollution Control Committee, but have shown how many open drains containing faecal waste enters Doodh Ganga even around the Kralpora water treatment plant. Instead of controlling the water pollution, plugging these drains and motivating people to protect Doodh Ganga, the officers of Water Works Division Srinagar are trying to prove me wrong.


Environmental Compensation order

The Water Works Division Srinagar must know that this author has done extensive research on Doodh Ganga for more than 10 years. I have even visited the source of Doodh Ganga multiple times located in Pir Panjal glaciers.

I am sure no senior official from PHE Jal Shakti Department would seen the source of Doodh Ganga around Chaskani Nar valley which is located around 4000 meters above sea level. To reach this place one has to travel for 2 days from Yusmarg or Doodh Pathri in Budgam.

The information I have collected on Doodh Ganga is not copy pasted stuff but is based on facts and actual figures. The details have been collected from different authentic sources & the same have been submitted before the Hon’ble National Green Tribunal -NGT in 2021 when I moved a formal petition (application) on pollution and illegal riverbed mining in Doodh Ganga.

Before 2021 I would write a lot on this issue and in fact made several video reports as well on Doodh Ganga pollution. But neither the Water Works Division Srinagar nor other Govt institutions responded to my repeated pleas. I had no option left but to file a formal petition.

Because of my activism and judicial intervention the NGT in March 2022 imposed an interim penalty of Rs 3 crores on Srinagar Municipal Corporation-SMC, Municipal Committee Chadoora and Geology and Mining Department. In October 2022 another Rs 32 crore penalty was imposed again for water pollution and illegal riverbed mining.

For information of readers recently (April 3rd 2024) the NGT’s three member bench headed by Justice Prakash Shrivastava, Justice Sudhir Aggarwal and Dr A Senthil Vel (Expert Member) while quoting pollution in Doodh Ganga especially near Kralpora Water Treatment Plant -WTP decided to impose Environmental Compensation on the Govt. The NGTs April 3rd 2024 order reads:

“Hence the only option left is to impose Environmental Compensation (EC) on the violators for continuous violation of Environmental Norms.”

This order was issued even when the J&K Housing and Urban Development Department (HUDD), and J&K Urban Environmental Engineering Department (UEED) have already agreed to spend Rs 140 Crore on setting up the sewerage treatment plants (STPs) on Doodh Ganga from Barzulla to Chadoora. The case is now listed for hearing on July 10th 2024.

Nowhar line is also Polluted

The Water Works Division-WDD, Srinagar which supplies drinking water from Doodh Ganga water treatment plant Kralpora in its statement have said that the raw water source of Doodh Ganga plant is 18km long with 600mm diameter gravity line called Nowhar line whose headworks are situated at Surasyar Chadoora. The statement further says that during peak season most of the raw water requirement is fulfilled from the Nawhar line itself and very minimal water is being lifted from the lift station at Kralpora. The statement reads :

“Furthermore 80% of Raw Water for Doodh Ganga WTP is being supplied by Nauhar Nallah which is free from Coliform bacteria & other impurities.Treated water at the plants complies with the set standards for the drinking water as prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)”

Water Works Division Srinagar claims that  80 % of water supplied from Doodh Ganga water treatment plant is lifted from Nowhar line which PHE WWD Srinagar claims to be clean. But that is not the case at all as there are at least half a dozen villages located in Nowhar upstream wherefrom Faecal waste enters Doodh Ganga especially from Bonyar, Pethyar, Surasyar, Check Surasyar and Branwar villages.

PCC's water quality report

The water sampling of Doodh Ganga done between January to July 2023 by J&K Pollution Control Committee (PCC) at multiple locations clearly reveals that the water quality is not fit for bathing leave aside drinking? The PCC’s water analysis report says that water at Chadoora town and its downstream contains ammoniacal nitrogen, high concentrated sulphates plus calcium and magnesium. The turbidity of water is also very high.

The report submitted before NGT indicates that primary water quality in Doodh Ganga is bad as per the criteria for bathing water which was published in the Gazette of India on September 25th year 2000. As per the said criteria,  the recommended faecal coliform count in bathing water is 500 colony-forming units (CFU) per milliliter, with a maximum permissible limit of 2500 CFU/ml.

These limits are established to accommodate variations in environmental conditions, such as seasonal changes and fluctuations in flow conditions. However, for drinking purposes, the acceptable faecal coliform count is zero, as specified by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) in IS 10500:2012 (PM/ 10500/ 1 October 2020).

Pertinently the faecal coliform counts at all sampling sites of Doodh Ganga exceed the acceptable limits. Specifically the water quality at Chadoora exceeds the desirable limit for bathing water by nearly three times, indicating a significant level of contamination.


Under Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin Phase -1 hundreds of lavatories have been constructed in the Surasyar block of Budgam especially in Nowhar, Bonyar, Pethyar, Surasyar, Check Surasyar  and Branwar villages. Has the Water Works Division Srinagar team ever visited these villages to check how faecal waste from lavatories is entering  Doodh Ganga? My estimation is that 50 % of these lavatories have openings in small water channels, drains etc., which finally enter Doodh Ganga.

The officers of Water Works Division Srinagar are living in a “Fool's Paradise “ if they think that Nowhar water supply line is safe and hygienic?  Let experts from Pollution Control Committee (PCC), Govt Medical College Srinagar, Rural Development and PHE-Jal Shakti Departments jointly visit all the habitations and villages located near Doodh Ganga from Barzulla to Branwar and access the ground situation.

In fact I will now request NGT  to issue an order regarding this and also to make PHE Jal Shakti and Rural Development Departments parties in Doodh Ganga case. How can PHE-Jal Shakti Department charge Water Tax from consumers when the drinking water they supply isn’t clean at all?

This is not the case with Doodh Ganga water treatment plant only, but many other water supply schemes and plants are also supplying unhygienic water which needs Drinking Water  audit by a third party audit across J&K. I also request Secretary Rural Development Department to seek a report about SBM lavatories in villages so as to see how many of them get drained into various drinking water sources.

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is Acumen Fellow and Chairman J&K RTI Movement. He has done his fellowship on Climate Action  from Anant National University Ahmedabad