Laid to waste: Pollution, contamination of groundwater plagues Dera Bassi

by Hillary Victor, originally posted on January 16, 2017


With the Assembly elections around the corner, the poor state of affairs in Dera Bassi, which is just 20 kms from Chandigarh and parts of SAS Nagar, is back in the focus. The list of problems afflicting this small town on the National Highway -21 is endless. From high levels of pollution due to 300 industrial units and stray cattle menace to haphazard parking and poor medical facilities at the lone civil hospital, the residents get a raw deal here. The township has a population of around 60,000 with 100 villages and 12 private housing societies.


Several villages in Dera Bassi are affected by the sewage discharge from factories, flowing into nearby drains. They allege that it is not only polluting the groundwater, and thereby the water supply from hand pumps and tubewells, but also causing air pollution in Dera Bassi. At present, there are around 300 industrial units and four meat plants here. Though waste water from some factories of the focal point, Mubarkpur, flowing into a drain crossing between Dera Bassi and Bhankerpur, has been affecting the life of people in nearby villages for the past few years, no corrective measure has been taken to address the problem. The groundwater of Bhankerpur, Issapur, Pragpur, Bakerpur, Ibrahampur Dhanounani and Bhora villages has been polluted due to the sewage drained from factories, as a result of which people of these villages can no longer drink water from hand pumps. Fed up with their worsening situation, villagers of Issapur moved the National Green Tribunal (NGT) Delhi against this pollution, and are now awaiting decision.


Another major problem afflicting the township is of stray cattle menace, which is causing accidents on the national highway. Though the issue has been debated many times in meetings of municipal council for the past several years, to date, there is no squad for stray cattle or dogs. Stray cattle have a free run of the highway, as the civic body looks the other way.


The authorities have also turned a blind eye to the haphazard parking on national highway, causing great inconvenience to the commuters. During the visit to the town, HT team found that most of the vehicles were parked on the roadside of the highway under the flyover. Also the town has around 300 commercial vehicles, including trucks, school buses and jeeps, which are also parked around the highway. On being asked about this, Executive officer of MC Rajbir Singh said, it is the duty of the traffic police to remove them.


Every year, the town witnesses water-logging, and the worst hit areas include the main bazaar, the stretch in front of the Municipal Council office and the bus stand. The residents complain that even a light spell of rain leads to water-logging, and the authorities have not come up with any concrete solution to a problem that has been persisting for several years now. They say the water even enters the colonies in low-lying areas.


The lone civil hospital at Dera Bassi does not adequate facilities, forcing the residents to rush to Chandigarh or Ambala for treatment. At present, the hospital does not have a paediatrician, dermatologist, ophthalmologist, and other specialised physicians. The 50-bed hospital does not even have a cell counting machine.


We found water accumulated in the ground on our visit to the Gurnam Singh Singh Saini Senior secondary school, the only government secondary school here. Students said the ground has been in this condition for the past several months. They complained that the school does not promote any sports activities.


The construction of a flyover on the National Highway in May last year has come as a relief for commuters on the Chandigarh-Delhi highway. There are also ten dividers under the flyover that enable commuters under the flyover to turn towards Barwala and the main town of Dera Bassi, among other places. With this, the travel time between Chandigarh and Ambala-Delhi has been reduced by 30 minutes as the crossing here used to witnesses long traffic jams.


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