As experts and policy-makers delivered lectures on the “pollution menace” on World Environment Day on Thursday, nearly a lakh of people in 15 wards of the city were drinking contaminated water, with the civic authorities failing to take any concrete corrective steps.
The Pollution Control Board (PCB) has sounded an alert to the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC) and urged it to prevent people of these areas from drinking water from street taps. The PCB has also directed the CMC immediately to repair the underground pipelines to ensure the supply of safe drinking water.
After receiving numerous complaints for the past two weeks on the poor quality of water, the PCB conducted a random survey of piped water in 35 wards in Calcutta and the added areas. The samples were tested in the PCB laboratory, and water from 15 wards was found to be highly contaminated.
PCB officials said the water in Shyambazar, Rajabazar, Maniktala, Sealdah, Mullickbazar, Ballygunge, Jadavpur, Bhowanipore, Mudiali, Tollygunge and Behala is contaminated. The wards concerned are 33, 37, 45, 47, 58, 59, 73, 78, 82, 88, 100, 115, 121, 122 and 125.
“Coliform and several faecal bacteria were found in the water, which is unsafe even for washing and cleaning purposes. As the people in these areas have been drinking contaminated water for over a month, many of them suffer from enteric diseases and jaundice. We have informed the CMC of our findings, and cautioned them about the possible outbreak of an epidemic if immediate steps are not taken,’’ said PCB chairman Hirak Ghosh.
According to PCB officials, underground pipelines have developed several cracks, resulting in the seepage of drain and sewer water into the drinking water pipelines. “We have told the civic authorities to repair the cracks immediately,’’ Ghosh said, adding that the PCB would continue with the random surveys.
Mayor Subrata Mukherjee, however, was defiant. “Let the PCB undertake the responsibility of repairing the pipelines, since it has detected the defects. I know that cracks have appeared in the underground pipelines at many places and they need major repairs. But we do not have sufficient funds,” he said.
Reacting to the mayor’s comments, the PCB chairman, who is also the environment secretary, said it was not the PCB’s duty to take remedial measures to ensure the supply of safe drinking water. “Our responsibility is to identify areas of pollution and caution the people. It is the duty of the agency dealing with water supply to rectify the faults,’’ Ghosh said.
Urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya will hold a meeting with the CMC and the PCB next week on the matter.