High ammonia content in Yamuna disrupts water supply in Delhi

The source of ammonia in the Wazirabad barrage is effluents released by dye factories and distilleries located in Haryana

A polluted Yamuna river. File photo: PTI

Delhi’s water supply was been affected for the last few days due to increase in ammonia content in the Yamuna river, stated the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) on Wednesday (January 12).

The ammonia levels at Wazirabad barrage went up due to excessive and constant discharge of pollutants from Haryana. As a result, the three water treatment plants at Wazirabad, Chandrawal and Okhla are working at only 50% capacity.

The Delhi Jal Board stated that reduced supply would continue till the ammonia levels in the Yamuna river reduce to an extent that the water can be treated.

The areas which will be affected include Civil Lines, Hindu Rao hospital, Kamla Nagar, Shakti Nagar and adjoining areas like Karol Bagh, Pahar Ganj. NDMC areas, Old and New Rajinder Nagar, Patel Nagar, Baljeet Nagar, Prem Nagar, Inderpuri, Kalkaji, Govindpuri, Tughlakabad, Sangam Vihar, Ambedkar Nagar, Prahladpur and adjoining areas, Ramleela Ground, Delhi gate, Subhash Park, Model Town, Gulabi Bagh, Punjabi Bagh and Jahangirpuri.

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Additionally, Patel Nagar, Baljeet Nagar, Prem Nagar and south Delhi areas such as Moolchand, South Extension and Greater Kailash and parts of the cantonment areas will also face water shortage.

Yamuna’s eternal ammonia problem

This isn’t the first time that Delhi’s water supply has been affected due to high ammonia concentration in the Yamuna. In July 2020, the DJB had to reduce supply by 25% for the same reason. Similar disruption happened in November last year. Officials say this is a recurring problem.

Also read: Water supply in Delhi disrupted as ammonia rises in Yamuna

Ammonia is used in the production of fertilisers, plastics, synthetic fibres and dyes among other industrial products. Besides, the compound is released in nature during the decomposition of organic waste, which may seep into our soil and water sources and contaminate vegetables and fruits.

Ammonia concentration of 1 ppm and above is toxic and may damage internal organs of humans in the long-term.

The most likely source of ammonia in the Wazirabad barrage is believed to be effluents released by dye factories and distilleries in Panipat and Sonepat districts in Haryana. Besides, human sewage too seeps into the river from sources not clearly known.

Factories around Delhi are located downwards and release their waste into the Yamuna only after the river leaves the national capital.

What is the solution?

Unfortunately, the Delhi Jal Board doesn’t have the technical knowhow to remove or reduce ammonia content. The best it can do is to cut down the processing capacity at its three water treatment plants.

Another short-term measure is to mix fresh water flowing in from Munak canal with the Yamuna water to reduce concentration of ammonia and make it ready for treatment. The DJB also increases the amount of chlorine added to disinfect water every time it detects high levels of ammonia in the water.

What’s needed is strict guidelines against dumping harmful waste into the Yamuna river, besides ensuring untreated sewage does not find its way into the water body. However, in the absence of strong willpower on part of Haryana and Delhi governments, no concrete step has been taken so far in keeping Yamuna free from ammonia.

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