PUNE: The discharge of untreated sewage and industrial waste into rivers has emerged as the major cause of pollution in 16 of the 40 rivers studied by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on interstate borders. The study found the water unfit for any use.
The Bhima river, which has Mula, Mutha, Pavana and Indrayani as its tributaries, too was found polluted at two locations — Takli in Solapur and Jewargi in Gangapur in Karnataka. (for statistics see box).
About 85% locations of the 40 rivers, monitored between 2005-2013, showed total coliform content crossing the prescribed limits. The coliform content of Bhima river (at the two locations) too was quite high.
The coliform count is a water quality parameter that acts as an indicator of pathogens that most commonly cause diarrhoea, typhoid and a host of enteric diseases. The rivers were studied between 2005 and 2013.
Many of these rivers have been the bone of contention between states with pollution being one of the prime reasons for conflict.
The most polluted river in the country is Ghaghar which passes through Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Rajasthan.
Though the pollution levels of interstate rivers in Maharashtra such as Vardha, Mahi, Tapi, Bhima and Krishna were found high, their condition is still better when compared with other rivers observed.
The CPCB report states that rivers that had comparatively good water quality at every location were Sarsa, Vardha, Mahi, Chambal, Betwa, Sone, Tapi, Bhima, Krishna, Damodar, Ramganga and Subarnrekha.
The water quality monitoring results were analyzed with respect to indicators of oxygen consuming substances such as bio-chemical oxygen demand (BOD) and dissolved oxygen (DO), indicator of pathogenic bacteria i.e. total coliform and fecal coliform, total dissolved solids (TDS) and chemical oxygen demand (COD). The water quality of these rivers was assessed as per the primary water quality criteria for bathing. However, the CPCB clearly states that their water is unfit for any designated usage.
The coliform range exceeded the maximum prescribed limit in Satluj, Beas, Ghaghar, Markanda, Ganga, Yamuna, Chambal, Dhela, Kosi, Kitchha, Wainganga, Krishna, Tungabhadra, among others in the country.
Despite umpteen efforts made to clean Ganga so far, the river was found polluted at several locations. The total coliform count at four different locations at the inter-state boundaries of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and Bihar was alarmingly high.
Despite the Yamuna Action Plan (YAP) in place, three of the nine monitored locations of the river had poor water quality. The Yamuna at Asgarpur village in Delhi and UP border was found to have the worst water quality with the highest BOD concentration.
“Time and again, we have drawn the attention of the Pune and Pimpri Chinchwad municipal corporations towards increasing pollution in Mula, Mutha, Pavana and Indrayani rivers. A lot of industrial waste and untreated sewage flows into these rivers, which finally meet the Bhima. No one has the right to spoil a water body, especially when we know lives of lakhs and crores of people are so intricately associated with them,” said a Pune-based green activist.
The water quality monitoring of Vardha, carried out at two locations at the interstate boundary of Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, showed that though the BOD and DO levels here were good, the coliform count exceeded the limits at one location in Maharashtra.
The monitoring of Tapi at three locations at the interstate boundaries of Maharashtra/Gujarat and Maharashtra/Madhya Pradesh too showed high coliform levels.
A CPCB official told TOI that one of its functions under the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 is to coordinate the activities of the state boards and resolve disputes among them. “The polluted water of a river, when it flows from one state to another, causes disputes. As per rules, polluted water of one state should not enter another through the rivers they share. This is one reason why this monitoring is carried out. Many disputes between states are related to this issue. States with identified polluted river locations were also sent letters with directions to the concerned state pollution control boards to address the pollution issues in their respective states,” the official said.
Gopal Krishna, convener, ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA) said that most of the water available has coliform content in one or the other form. “But the real problem starts when it crosses the threshold limit. With effluents from urban areas being dumped in the rivers, this problem has grown out of proportion. The value of this report lies in underlining the rot which exists in the current efforts of cleaning rivers. The authorities are not addressing the root problem, that is discharge of industrial effluents and sewage waste into rivers,” said Krishna.
He added that a blanket ban on discharge into rivers — after giving adequate time to industries and civic bodies to comply — will help mitigate the problem.