Every morning at 6 am, the cancer train leaves Bhatinda station to cover a distance of around 300 km to reach Bikaner in Rajasthan. The most notable feature of this train is that around 60 per cent of its passengers are cancer patients of all ages, and they are from all across Punjab. The train’s curious, though morbid-sounding, name originates from the annual number of cancer cases in Punjab that is blamed on pesticide use, growing pollution and polluted ground water.
The patients on this train are mostly small farmers from Punjab’s southern districts – Mansa, Sangrur, Bhatinda, Faridkot, Moga, Muktsar, Ferozepur and Sangrur, which together make up the Malwa region.
The state’s residents have little choice other than consuming highly polluted water or bathe in tap water sourced from canals where industrial effluents are discharged with impunity. The piped water supply schemes in the villages are predominantly based on underground water except for those located in waterlogged areas, where canals are the source of drinking water supply.
While the ground water schemes have been serving the rural population well over the last few decades, a fast-declining water table in most districts of the state has brought into question the long-term sustainability of these schemes. Excess draw and resultant depletion of the ground water table has also impacted the quality of the water, with many Punjab villages reporting presence of heavy metals. This change in water availability and quality has prompted the authorities to look towards a comprehensive and strategic solution to secure Punjab’s future water needs.
According to a survey data, in the districts of Nihal Singh Wala and Bagha Purana, 42 Villages have Uranium, five villages have heavy metals, and 36 villages have high TDS in their ground water. Apart from cancer, diseases such as diarrhea, typhoid, cholera, amoebiasis, hepatitis B, dysentery, etc., are common and this dismal condition has prevailed for years.
The Department of Water Supply and Sanitation (DWSS) has made a policy shift towards providing drinking water through surface water sources, especially in parts of the state where the water quality is poor and the precious resources is scarce.
The largest construction companies in India, Larsen & Toubro has designed and executed Punjab’s first Central water treatment plant (WTP). It’s a large multi-village surface water project in rural Punjab, covering 85 villages, many of which are water quality impacted. The project has been completed in Nihal Singh Wala, Moga and Baghapurana blocks of Moga district. It has been executed on design, build, operate and transfer basis to bring efficiency and sustainability to the project.
Implementing the project was a huge challenge but the DWSS with its meticulous planning, regular stakeholder coordination, technical oversight and effective community engagement has been able to ensure that the project is delivered in a time-bound manner with community participation.
L&T will also be responsible for the operation and maintenance of this bulk water supply project for a period of ten years ensuring 24×7 supply of potable water to 85 villages.
The project has an intake sump for raw water on the Sirhind canal and the WTP has been constructed in 4 acres of land at village Daudhar, with Rapid Sand Filter Gravity process.
The 50 mld WTP has a raw water tank, a clariflocculator, two overhead balancing reservoirs and 332 km of bulk distribution pipelines. To monitor supply and quality, the project has been provided with a state-of-the-art supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system to improve efficiency, promote water conservation and provide minute data on 24×7 basis. The chlorination is also monitored and administered through this state-of-the-art system. To bring in efficiency in distribution and consumption of water, the project includes metering infrastructure at bulk and household level, to ensure that users are charged based on actual consumption of water which promotes conservation and judicious use of the precious natural resources.
The plant will not only solve the problem of scarcity of clean drinking water but will also provide employment opportunities to the youth of the area. 332 km of pipeline has been installed in the area to cover the target region.
2021 marks a landmark year in the rural water supply sector of Punjab as the Moga multi-village water supply scheme is dedicated to the people of Punjab. Most importantly the rural communities through the Gram Panchayat Water Supply and Sanitation Committees, who have participated at all stages of the construction of this project, have also accepted the responsibility of for in-village distribution of water supply.
This project will ensure potable surface water, through piped connections, to water quality villages serving 68,000 households and 363,714 rural consumers. The project has been designed to serve a population of 420,000 in 2032 and 447,000 in 2047.
L&T spokesperson: “We are wholeheartedly committed to make rural areas of Moga district water abundant. Our engineers and workers have toiled through pandemic to give shape to the dreams of people to get clean water supply at their doorsteps. We are sincerely working towards making this region water-induced diseases-free.”
“This is to ensure long-term sustainability of potable piped water supply in the rural habitations of the State. In pursuit of this vision, the state government has formulated and is executing large multi-village surface water projects.”