How safe is holy water at Sangam?

HT Correspondent

New Delhi, January 18: IF A sampling done by a non-government organisation is to be believed, the holy water at the Sangam, Allahabad, is not fit for human consumption.

The Sangam or the confluence of the rivers Ganga and Yamuna at Allahabad is the holiest spot at the 44-day long Mahakumbh mela being held at Allahabad.

According to officials of Chetna, a Delhi based NGO, a water sample picked up from the Sangam on December 25 last year was tested at the laboratories of the Shriram Institute for Industrial Research in Delhi. The test findings clearly stated that the water sample "does not confirm to IS-10500-1991 and cannot be considered fit for drinking purpose,"

In fact, the results sheet declares that bacteriological testing of the water sample confirms the presence of 212 units of MPN coliform per 100 ml against an accepted level of max. 10.

The state of-the-art Shriram lab is known for its high standard of clinical testing.

An official at the Shriram Institute, however, has categorically stated that though testing was done on the water sample provided to the laboratories, "We take no guarantee for the fact that the water sample has indeed been collected from the Sangam." The official further states "even if the water had indeed been picked up from the Sangam as the claim states, we had no role in collecting it."

The significance of the clarification lies in the fact that all samples collected by the Shriram Institute officials is under strict scientific conditions. For example, if water at the Sangam had to be tested it would have to be collected at a particular spot of the confluence and at a particular depth. "For critical testing that reveals bacterial presence, especially, it is important that the sample collected is preserved properly (refrigerated, if necessary) to give correct results," said the official.

Anil Sood, secretary to Chetna says that he collected the samples at the Sangam during a visit there. Thereafter one sample was forwarded to the Central Pollution Control Board, CPCB, but it didnít elicit any response from them. Another sample was then handed to the Shriram, Institute for testing.

Chetna officials also say that the sample findings would now be forwarded to the an important heads monitoring pollution including those at the Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board.

The objective behind this exercise reportedly lies in seeking an answer as to why no warning was sounded to the three to four crore devotees who would throng the Sangam during the Kumbh mela and swallow the water.

"Over the years close to Rs 900 crores has been spent by our governments in their effort to clean up Ganga. Yet there are such results whenever testing is done," said Mr Sood.