(Daily News Scan - DNS English) High Levels of Ammonia in Yamuna Water

(Daily News Scan - DNS English) High Levels of Ammonia in Yamuna Water

The Yamuna River that flows through Delhi is the source of all water needs of the residents of Delhi. But, the river is contaminated and experiencing high levels of ammonia. Twice in a week, Delhi JAL Board had to reduce water production capacity by 25 percent due to high ammonia detected in water.

Today’s edition of our DNS will deal with what is ammonia, its effects, how it enters into water and what is the solution.

Recently, Delhi Jal Board had detected high levels of ammonia in river Yamuna. The concentration of the pollutant was high in raw water released from Haryana. This affected the supply in town. The level of ammonia in raw water on Monday morning was 1.8 parts per million (ppm). This was significantly less than 3 ppm recorded on Friday, in the previous week.

The acceptable maximum limit of ammonia in drinking water, as per the Bureau of Indian Standards, is 0.5 ppm.

Now the Question that arises here –What is AMMONIA?

Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen. It is a colourless gas that is used as an industrial chemical in the production of fertilisers, plastics, synthetic fibres, dyes and other products. Ammonia occurs naturally in the environment from the breakdown of organic waste matter, and may also find its way to ground and surface water sources through industrial effluents or through contamination by sewage.

If the concentration of ammonia in water is above 1 ppm it is toxic to fishes. In humans, long term ingestion of water having ammonia levels of 1 ppm or above may cause damage to internal organs.

The most probable source is believed to be effluents from dye units, distilleries and other factories in Panipat and Sonipat districts in Haryana, and also sewage from some unsewered colonies in this stretch of the river.

At present, The DJB does not have any specific technology to treat ammonia. The only solution they adapt is to reduce production at three water treatment plants — Wazirabad, Chandrawal and Okhla which are largely affected by the pollutant.

Along with this, the board mixes raw water that carries high concentration of ammonia with fresh supply from Munak canal. This canal brings Yamuna water from Munak area in Haryana to Delhi. The amount of chlorine added to disinfect raw water is also increased when high levels of ammonia are detected.

With the completion of a new unit of the Chandrawal water treatment plant by 2022, fitted with advanced technologies and filters, the DJB expects it can treat ammonia levels up to 4 ppm.

There can be several ways through which this problem of increased levels of Ammonia in water can be reduced in the long term.

Stringent implementation of guidelines against dumping harmful waste into the river, and making sure untreated sewage does not enter the water are two things pollution control bodies are expected to do. However, neither Haryana nor Delhi have been able to ensure the same.

But, a more organic method agreed upon by environmentalists and experts is to maintain a sustainable minimum flow, called the ecological flow. This is the minimum amount of water that should flow throughout the river at all times to sustain underwater and estuarine ecosystems and human livelihoods, and for self-regulation.

There are some challenges ahead of achieving the above mentioned solutions. It is, a sensitive point between the two state governments. As Delhi is dependent on Haryana for up to 70 per cent of its water needs, it has approached the courts several times over the past decade to get what it calls an equitable share of water. Haryana, with a large number of people involved in agriculture, has water paucity issues of its own. Both states have argued over maintaining 10 cumecs (cubic meter per second) flow in the Yamuna at all times.

The lack of a minimum ecological flow also means accumulation of other pollutants. After water is extracted from the river for treatment, what flows is mostly untreated sewage and refuse from homes, run off from storm water drains and effluents from unregulated industry.

These challenges need to be addressed as earliest as possible so that the basic necessity of clean water is fulfilled.