Ludhiana, a smart city housing many industries and businesses,  is also responsible for producing more than 50% of India’s bicycles. While industries bring in a lot of profits, Ludhiana’s industrial hub is one of the main sources of water and air pollution in Punjab.

The World Health Organisation declared Ludhiana as the fourth most polluted city in the world in 2011 and even though it ranked 95th in the world in 2019, there hasn’t been much done to curb the pollution in the city. It’s quite amusing to see that Ludhiana has been ranked 14th among the cities (under the million-plus population category) in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs’ ranking for the “Ease of Living Index 2020” in India.

The hub of small-scale industries disposing of untreated waste is a major contributor to the debilitating environment of the city. The burning of rice and wheat straw in the nearby villages, using a large number of diesel generator sets due to irregular electricity supply, and anaerobic digestion of biomass and garbage within the city limits are the other major sources of air pollution in Ludhiana. Also, there are more than 50,000 diesel auto-rickshaws in the city and unclean roads further aggravated the problem of increasing pollution. We’ve all heard stories from our grandparents about how the Buddha Nallah was once so clean, people used to take a bath in it but we all know that currently, it’s the home to numerous diseases and infections. It’s a huge menace to the people living around the area as it harms their health and since it is connected to the Sutlej river, it affects the quality of water supplied to Rajasthan through the Indira Gandhi Canal. A plan was introduced to clean the Buddha Nallah by constructing sewage treatment plants and some common effluent treatment plants to clean water bodies polluting the Sutlej river in Ludhiana and Jalandhar. The effects on the health of people living near these untreated polluted water sources are so adverse and serious that it is common there to have skin problems, stomach-related problems, and even cancer. The lack of education results in a lack of awareness among the people. People need better education institutions with better facilities. It has even resulted in polluting the groundwater and it can only be used after the filtration process. The goal was to clean the nullah before December 2020 but the plan wasn’t imposed properly. The plan was to install two new sewage treatment plants (STPs) with a wastewater treatment capacity of 285 Million Litres per Day (MLD) at Jamalpur and to refurbish the four existing STPs with the treatment capacity of 400 MLD at Bhattian and Balloke since all the existing plants became old and inessential over some time.

Last year, due to the lockdown, the rivers started looking clearer,  more birds were seen and Ludhiana was the cleanest city of India on March 23, 2020, with an air quality index (AQI) of 35 (according to CPCB). We can transform it into an everyday thing if we want to.

It’s high time we choose the sustainable road to development for the sake of the city. We need to make a switch to cleaner sources of energy like solar energy. Solar energy has the potential to be quite useful in a city like Ludhiana. It’s quite sunny here for most of the year and the development of solar energy is an untouched, resourceful mine waiting to be dug. We need to encourage and develop cheap, active, and eco-friendly transport choices such as walking, cycling, and accessible public transport like buses, eco-rickshaws, and autos using CNG and LPG. There isn’t a well-connected system of local buses in the city and many people don’t prefer them too as they aren’t that safe.

Sahibgun Singh, 24, says,” I don’t prefer using buses as they aren’t that safe and also, there aren’t many local buses in Ludhiana. I wish there was a metro system in our ‘smart’ city”.

There should be more plantation drives and if an area’s trees have to be uprooted for construction, they should be relocated to other locations. A proper waste disposal system is needed. There is an urgent need for the installation of segregated dustbins within a 500 meters radius all over the city. Strict action needs to be taken against stubble burning. People should be made aware of the 3 R’s of the environment- Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Roads should be cleaned daily and the process of constructing disposal waste plants should be hurried up.

Author: Vanshika Jain