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| Last Updated:01/03/2014

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Indian Railways' Watergate: Report finds water at stations highly contaminated

NDTV, 01 March 2014


NEW DELHI: Around 50 lakh passengers use the Northern Railways and drink water from the stations. It is highly likely they putting their health at risk. NDTV has accessed an Indian Railway's internal report, which says that the water across Northern Railways, which covers 700-plus stations, is extremely polluted.


The water available in taps at railway stations, and at railway colonies is supplied by the Railways. The water is sourced from 800 borewells across Northern India and is supposed to be treated before reaching passengers, but the reality, as this report finds, is shocking.


Of the samples tested by the Railways' medical department for levels of Coliform Bacteria, 59% of the samples in the Moradabad Division and 94% samples in the Ambala Division were found to be contaminated, according to the report. The worst hit was however the Lucknow Division where 100% samples were reportedly found to be contaminated.


Coliform Bacteria is potentially harmful, and can cause a host of water-borne diseases like cholera.


The report says that the reason behind the polluted water, in places like Lucknow and Ambala, is the absence of treatment plants.


In two divisions, Firozpur and Delhi, chlorination is outsourced to private companies, but the report finds that the condition of the plants is extremely unsatisfactory.


Officials in charge of Northern Railways say the amount of water to be treated is huge, and achieving zero impurities is difficult.


Principal engineer with Northern Railways, AK Harit, said that he can't remember if he has seen the report. However, the report came from his department and was prepared by a chief engineer from the office under him. Mr Harit later said he will look into the matter and take corrective steps.


This report has been taken up with railway officials, and sent to the general manager of the railways, VK Gupta. But instead of improving the situation, the company responsible for chlorination in Delhi, has instead threatened to sue the chief engineer. He is now being represented by eminent lawyer Prashant Bhushan.


"The facts speak for themselves. Such a large number of samples have been taken that show contamination. Isn't it the job of the officer to inform his department, so the corrective action is taken and it is cleaned up? And how can the company who is a defaulter, threaten him? This is absurd," Mr Bhushan said.