CHROMIUM POISONING IN NORAIAKHEDA AREA OF KANPUR
 
(Nov. 17, 2004)

 

The popular impression that the groundwater is shielded from contaminants is being replaced with the facts that the water buried beneath is not only susceptible to pollution, it is in many ways more vulnerable than water above ground. Because it is underground and slow moving, groundwater stores pollutants far longer than rivers or air do. Also the remoteness of the groundwater, its slowness to recharge, the enormous amount of contaminants that reach it, and their slowness to breakdown underground-make groundwater pollution virtually irreversible.

Groundwater pollution has proceeded unchecked because we know so little about the water buried beneath our feet. It is extremely costly to adequately track the health of groundwater resources and difficult to clean them. As far as human health is concerned, it may take several years before any health effects show up in the local population.

Kanpur , being one of the most industrialized towns of Northern India , has been a host to industries of diverse nature. Inadvertently these industries have been poisoning the groundwater resources of the town over the years. The highly polluting industries of Kanpur have rendered the groundwater in their respective areas unsafe and unusable. The communities, which live in the vicinity of industrial areas, the industrial dumpsites and in the areas that were used as industrial waste dumpsites in the past but later residential colonies grew up there, are totally dependent on the groundwater for their water needs. People have no choice but to consume the highly chemicalised and poisoned water.

Noraiakheda is one of the areas in Kanpur where the groundwater has been reported to be heavily contaminated with Chromium and other toxicants. The groundwater of the area was reported to be laced with high concentration of Chromium (6.2 mg/l), Iron (351.8 mg/l), fluorides (4.2 mg/l) and pesticides (Lindane 83.47 ng/l, DDT (192.36 ng/l) for the first time in 1997 by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The concentrations of Chromium, Iron, Fluorides and Pesticides were 125 times, more than 1000 times, 4-5 times and more than hundred times respectively than the desirable limits for drinking water.

 CPCB through its report recommended that the locations which exhibit highly contaminated groundwater be immediately declared unsafe areas and be supplied with alternative measures of drinking water. CPCB also recommended that a detailed inventory of possible sources of contamination be made and strict regulation for safe disposal of hazardous industrial waste be enforced.

 The recommendations made in 1997 are yet to be implemented. The communities continue to consume the toxic water and industries keep dumping their liquid and solid waste indiscriminately.

As per the most recent findings of the CPCB, the groundwater of Noraiakheda is contaminated with different concentrations of Chromium at various depths ranging from 24 ft to 140 ft. The concentration of Hexavalent Chromium has been reported up to 16.3 mg/l that is 1630 times more than the WHO standards (.01 mg/l) for drinking water at a depth of 140 ft in Noraiakheda area. (A list of different concentrations of Tri- & Hexa- valent Chromium at different depths of Noraiakheda area is being annexed)

People in the area get drinking water through hand and submersible pumps from a depth of 60 ft to 120 ft that is absolutely unsafe for drinking. Some of the hand pumps spew yellowish and greenish water. Now health effects are clearly visible amongst the local population. The symptoms of chromium poisoning have started surfacing and undoubtedly an epidemic is under way. People are afflicted with various skin problems and stomach ailments. The chromium pollution is impacting the public health, the environment and the economy.

Recently CPCB signed an MOU with ITRC Lucknow, IIT Kanpur and NGRI Hyderabad for an ambitious project aimed at groundwater remediation in Noraiakheda area. The project is slated to be completed only after 2007. But people cannot wait till the groundwater is remediated. Therefore CPCB should shift its emphasis away from costly end-of-pipe responses to ensuring safe drinking water to communities and preventing the continuing damage in the first place.

Eco Friends has been working in the area for the last two years. We found that communities were quite ignorant about the hidden threat of groundwater contamination. Now they are aware about the problem but feel helpless. Having failed in evoking any response from the local authorities, Eco friends now plans to put up the case before the Monitoring Committee on Hazardous Waste formed by the Supreme Court of India.

 

Latest Chromium concentrations in the groundwater of Noraiakheda, Panki, Kanpur :

S.No.

Place

Depth

(in meters.)

 

TCR (mg/l)

Trivalent chromium

HCR (mg/l)

Hexavalent chromium

Times
1 13 2 KV Substation

 

34

0.33 - 33

36

- 0.02 02

42

0.31 - 31
44 - 0.03 03
2 UPTRON Estate

16

0.32

-

32

18

-

0.00

-

24

0.11

-

11

26 -

0.01

01
3 Panki Dharam Kanta

20

0.24

-

24

22

-

0.02

02

28

1.51

-

151

30 -

0.00

-
4 M/s Skolast Ltd,

08

21.78

-

2178

10

-

10.60

1060

26

1.01

-

101

28 -

0.00

-
42 21.2 - 2102
44 - 16.3 1603

 

 Abridged status of groundwater at Noraiakheda showing parameters exceeding ISI norms*

(CPCB report 1997)

 

Indian Drinking Water Standards

 

Noraiakheda

 

Parameter

Desirable Limit

Max.

Avg. Max.

Color (Hz Units)

Turbidity (NTU)

pH

Total Hardness (CaCO 3 )

Iron

Chloride

Alkalinity

Boron

Dissolved Solids

Calcium

Sulphate

Nitrate

Flouride

Phenolic compounds

Pesticides (Lindane)

Pesticides (DDT)

Lead

Zinc

Chromium(hex.)

T-Coliform

 

5

5

6.5-8.5

300

0.3

250

200

1

500

75

200

45

1

0.001

Absent

Absent

0.05

5

0.05

 

120

---

---

4570

351.8

---

500

---

977

---

---

---

4.3

---

201.16

577.1

0.15

---

6.2

130

 

92.5

---

---

1534

121.1

---

404.3

---

858

---

---

---

2.19

---

83.47

192.36

---

---

4.6

41

 

Note: Max : Overall (annual) maximum ; Avg max: maximum of annual average values

Colour : Hazen units ; T-Coliforms : MPN/100 ml ; DDT, Lindane : ng/l

All other parameters in mg/l

 

*ISI Drinking Water Norms: IS-10500, Oct 1992, First Review.

 

ECO FRIENDS ORGANISES A MEET ON THE ISSUE OF GROUND WATER CONTAMINATION IN

NORAIAKHEDA AREA OF KANPUR

 

Noraiakheda is located in the industrial area of the city. The area assumes significance on account of location of chemical factories and its dense population, dominated by poor and landless people who are most vulnerable to health risks. Noraiakheda has been used for years as waste disposal site by the Basic Chrome Sulphate (BCS) manufacturing units, which supply BCS to chrome tanning units of leather industry. This has lead to contamination of groundwater of Noraiakheda with Chromium, which is a known carcinogen. The residents of the area are forced to drink this contaminated water, which has been found to be highly unsafe in the absence of any alternative provision.

Noraiakheda is spread in a 3 square kilometer area, which is surrounded with several industries of different nature. These industries include Kanpur Pesticides, LML & its ancillary units, Dye factories, Thumps Up, Starlinger, and several lead battery units. “There are some industries, which are injecting their raw effluent into the groundwater and many do not have waste treatment plants,” say the residents who work in these factories.

The main source of drinking water for the residents of Noraiakheda is ground water. Some of the houses have installed submersible and jet pumps to extract the groundwater. They’re using the groundwater from the depth of 60 to 150 feet, though the groundwater of the area up to 350 feet has been reported by Central Pollution Control Board to be contaminated with high concentration of chromium, iron, fluoride, coliform and pesticides. The residents are forced to use this contaminated and unsafe water in the absence of alternative provision. Poor people who cannot afford hand pumps use Ganga canal water, which flows nearby for washing and bathing.

Eco Friends launched an awareness campaign in Jan 2004 against the polluting industries and the use of contaminated and unsafe water in Noraiakheda area. Eco Friends has been collecting information and meeting the locals to understand their problems for the past one month. Eco Friends organised a public meeting at Geeta Vidya Mandir, Noraiakheda on April 4. The aim of the meeting was to talk to the locals on the issue of ground water contamination and its impact on their lives. The meeting started with an introduction of the purpose of the meet and a brief history of the area by Mahipal Singh Yadav of Eco Friends.

Rakesh K Jaiswal of Eco Friends while addressing the gathering said,” a healthy life cannot be expected sans safe drinking water. In the heart of the city the people are being denied access to safe drinking water.” He expressed concern over the apathy of the industry and officials. He assured the people that concerted efforts would me made to discipline the erring industries and ensure safe drinking water supply to the residents of Noraiakheda. He stressed on importance of safe and clean water in life and said, “people polluting water resources are criminals and they must be punished.” An investigation with the help of the Pollution Board will be launched against the polluters, he added. He appealed to the people to get organized and raise their voice against the environmental injustice.

Mohd Owais, Senior Project Officer presented the facts about the ground water quality of the area. He quoted the data from the CPCB report published in the year 1997. The summary statement of the pollutants in the groundwater of Noraiakheda area is as follows:

Abridged Status Showing Parameters Exceeding ISI norms*

Indian Drinking Water Standards Noraiakheda
Parameter Desirable Limit Max. Avg. Max.
Color (Hz Units)
Turbidity (NTU)
pH
Total Hardness (CaCO3)
Iron
Chloride
Alkalinity
Boron
Dissolved Solids
Calcium
Sulphate
Nitrate
Flouride
Phenolic compounds
Pesticides (Lindane)
Pesticides (DDT)
Lead
Zinc
Chromium(hex.)
T-Coliform
5
5
6.5-8.5
300
0.3
250
200
1
500
75
200
45
1
0.001
Absent
Absent
0.05
5
0.05
120
---
---
4570
351.8
---
500
---
977
---
---
---
4.3
---
201.16
577.1
0.15
---
6.2
130
92.5
---
---
1534
121.1
---
404.3
---
858
---
---
---
2.19
---
83.47
192.36
---
---
4.6
41

Note: Max : Overall (annual) maximum ; Avg max: maximum of annual average values
Colour : Hazen units ; T-Coliforms : MPN/100 ml ; DDT, Lindane : ng/l
All other parameters in mg/l

*ISI Drinking Water Norms: IS-10500, Oct 1992, First Review.

Ram Narain Shukla a resident of Noraiakheda informed that the industries of Noraiakheda are getting clean water from the deep tube well while the people are getting contaminated ground water laced with a cocktail of pollutants. He requested Eco Friends to arrange same water supply to the residents. The hand pumps were dismantled and warning signs were put up few years ago, reminisced Mr. Shukla. The tankers supplied water but only when the residents protested. The last time the tanker came was in October 2003, told Ram Naraian.

Raja Ram Singh Chauhan informed that on 21st July 1965 Kanpur Development Authority (KDA) acquired Noraiakheda area under Green Belt 40 scheme. Later the area was handed over to State Industrial Development Corporation. This is how the area grew into an industrial estate.

J P Gupta, an owner of a factory in the area informed that there are more than 50 illegal lead battery units which are discharging lead and sulphuric acid in violation of the regulations and demanded stern action against the units.

Kesari Balmiki spoke on behalf of her community (dalit) and demanded immediate measures to get them safe drinking water. She assured Eco Friends of full cooperation in its campaign against the polluting industries.

At the end of the meeting it was decided that a massive public meeting would be held after elections. The meeting ended with a vote of thanks by Anil Shukla.

   
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