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Ammonia in Yamuna:

GS Paper 3:

Topics Covered: Pollution related issues.



Water supply was disrupted in parts of Delhi once again when ammonia levels in the Yamuna river remained high on 16th April.

  • The concentration of ammonia in the river was 7.4 ppm (parts per million), seven times the level of around 1 ppm that the Delhi Jal Board’s water treatment plants (WTPs) can process.


What is the acceptable limit?

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


What is ammonia and what are its effects?

Ammonia is a colourless gas and is used as an industrial chemical in the production of fertilisers, plastics, synthetic fibres, dyes and other products.

  • It consists of hydrogen and nitrogen. In its aqueous form, it is called ammonium hydroxide.
  • This inorganic compound has a pungent smell.
  • Occurrence: Ammonia occurs naturally in the environment from the breakdown of organic waste matter.
  • It is lighter than air.



It may 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.


How does it enter the Yamuna?

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


What needs to be done?

  1. Stringent implementation of guidelines against dumping harmful waste into the river.
  2. Making sure untreated sewage does not enter the water.
  3. 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.


Challenges ahead:

  1. Delhi depends on Haryana for up to 70 per cent of its water needs.
  2. Haryana, with a large number of people involved in agriculture, has water paucity issues of its own.
  3. Both states have argued over maintaining 10 cumecs (cubic meter per second) flow in the Yamuna at all times.
  4. Both states have approached the courts several times over the past decade to get what they call an equitable share of water.
  5. The lack of a minimum ecological flow also means accumulation of other pollutants. After water is extracted from the river for treatment in North East Delhi, what flows is mostly untreated sewage and refuse from homes, runoff from storm water drains and effluents from unregulated industry.


Insta Curious:

Did you know that Article 21, the right to clean the environment, and further, pollution-free water, has been protected under the broad rubric of the right to life?



Prelims Link:

  1. River Yamuna Flows through how many states and UTs?
  2. Tributaries of Yamuna.
  3. How is Ammonia produced?
  4. Applications of Ammonia.
  5. Acceptable maximum limit of ammonia in drinking water?

Sources: Indian Express.