Essay on River Water Pollution in India !
River pollution in India has now reached a critical point. Almost every river system in India is now polluted to a great extent. As assessed by the scientists of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Nagpur, nearly 70 per cent of river water in India is polluted. India has five major river systems, namely, the Ganga, the Brahmaputra and Indus river systems in north, and the peninsular, east coast and the west coast river systems in the south.
Many large rivers are closely associated with Indian culture and heritage. The pollution situation in our country is worse than that of some of the industrialised countries of Europe and America. The Ganga, the most sacred and important river of India, is regarded as the cradle of Indian civilisation. The 2,525 km long river starts from Gangotri in the Himalayas and joins the Bay of Bengal, at Ganga Sagar.
According to a report of the Central Pollution Control Board, despite river Ganga’s considerable resilience as a self-purifying and fast-flowing river, its organic pollution load is significantly high. At Kanpur, 45 tanneries and 10 textile mills are the major sources of liquid wastes discharged into the river. The wastes contain heavy organic load and putrefied material. It is estimated that 1,400 million litres of sewage and 200 million litres of industrial effluents are being discharged everyday into the river Ganga.
The BOD (106 tonnes/day), total solids (2,308 tonnes/day) and suspended solids (1,251 tonnes/day) are not only very high but also exceed the prescribed limits of the Bureau of Indian Standards. Recently, discharges from the Barauni Oil Refinery caused gross pollution along a long stretch of the main Ganga.
Preliminary observations were made on the pollution of the river Kali and a limnological survey was made of the river with reference to fish mortality. The main factories, which pollute the stream are sugar, distillery, tin, glycerin, paints, soap works, spinning, rayon, silk and yarn.
A major step to control and clean the river Ganga had been taken in 1984, when the Central Ganga Authority was established to implement the Ganga Action Plan. This plan has identified 27 cities and about 120 factories as points of pollution from Haridwar to Hooghly. Similarly, the Yamuna Action Plan has also been devised. But till now nothing substantial has come out and there is a long way to go.
A survey was carried out in 1965 along 21 km stretch of the river Gomati in the vicinity of Lucknow receiving 19.84 million gallons of wastes per day from pulp and paper factory, distillery and sewage. Heavy fish mortality was reported in Rihand reservoir due to high free chlorine content (62 ppm) discharged from Kanoria
Chemical Industries The organic wastes from a sugar factory and a distillery cause year-round pollution in the small river Dhaha. A case of heavy fish mortality was recorded in 1962 and 1966. Wastes from different factories, such as those engaged in the manufacture of paper, chemicals, sugar, cement, etc., are the major sources, discharging over 4 million gallons of wastes per day into the river Sone.
The river Hooghly at Kolkata receives wastes from various types of factories dealing with pulp and paper, distillery, tannery, textile, heavy chemicals, paints and varnishes, shellac, hydrogenated oil, matches, cycle rim, petroleum oil, tar pigment, insecticides and fungicides.
Of these, wastes from paper and pulp, distillery, chemicals, textiles, shellacs and a number of domestic outfalls contribute substantially to the pollution complex. River Damodar, which flows through the coal belt area in Bihar, is also a seriously polluted river which is the receptacle for wastes released from large number of industries such as the Sindri unit of the Fertiliser Corporation of India, the Bihar government’s superphosphates factory and the associated cement company.
The entire Asansol-Durgapur industrial belt on lower Damodar valley suffers from severe pollution caused by the discharge of wastes containing high phenol, cyanide and ammonical nitrogen.
The indiscriminate discharge of large volumes of highly putrefied wastes creates serious pollution problems in the river lb (Orissa) of the Mahanadi river system. The river Bhadra (Krishna river system) receives effluents from pulp and paper and steel industries.
Industries generate a significant quality of waste water, which ultimately finds its way to a stream/river. Industrial discharges containing toxic and hazardous substances contribute to the severe kind of pollution in the aquatic systems. Industrial development is largely because of the production of chemicals resulting in the generation of toxic and hazardous substances which have been continuously on the increase during the last four decades.
Industrial effluents, though comparatively lesser in volume, cause serious menace to aquatic environment and biotic communities including fish and ultimately affect man through the food chain.
River Godavari is polluted by the effluents of paper mill at Rajahmundry (Andhra Pradesh). The river Kalu in Mumbai receives highly acidic and untreated wastes from Amar Dye and Chemical Company, India Dyes, Century Rayon, National Rayon, Central Chemicals, etc.
Effluents of the Gwalior Rayon Factory at Mavoor, about 21 km from Beypore, have created a pollution hazard in the river Chaliyar at Calicut, Kerala. Large scale fish mortality in 1966 was attributed to highly putrefy organic matter creating almost anaerobic conditions in the river with very low or nil oxygen.
In Tamil Nadu, river Cooum at Chennai gets polluted by the washings from a large number of slums, cattle yards, over flow from sewage pumping station, wastes from automobile workshops and many factories. Nearly 300 tanneries are spread along the banks of river Palar over a stretch of 120 km from Vaniambadi to Ranipet.
The waste water discharge from these tanneries affects the ground water quality because of sodium and chlorides present in the tannery waste. River Cauvery is polluted by Mettur Chemical and Industrial Corporation Ltd. River Vaigai receives effluents from many chemical and soap factories and large quantities of municipal sewage.
The rate of pollution in South Indian Rivers seems to be higher than those in the North Indian Rivers. The main reason for this is the summer season during which the icebergs get melted and the melted water is drained into the major North Indian Rivers like the Ganga, the Brahmaputra, etc. During the rainy season rivers get a good current from the natural showers itself.
The only possibility of pollution for such rivers is by the catchment of pollutants when they pass through the urban and industrial belts, whereas the South Indian Rivers depend mainly on the north-east and the south-west monsoons. Deforestation also affects rainfall and ultimately changes the river flow in South Indian Rivers. Already, these rivers are under stress due to lack of rainfall caused by deforestation and pollution is an additional/secondary stress.
Access to safe drinking water remains an urgent need as only 72 per cent of the population in urban area receives well treated water supply. The situation in rural areas is much worse. In India, almost all surface water sources are contaminated and unfit for human consumption. The diseases commonly caused due to contaminated water are diarrhoea, trachoma intestinal worms, hepatitis, etc.
Recent WHO data show that about 21 per cent of all communicable diseases in India are water-borne diseases. Epidemiological studies have shown that diarrhoea and intestinal worm infections account for an estimated 10 per cent of the total burden of disease.
An uncontrolled disposal of urban wastes into water bodies, open dumps and poorly designed landfills causes surface water and ground water contamination. Industrial wastes containing heavy metals, such as mercury, chromium, lead and arsenic, can threaten or destroy marine life. Health hazards such as malaria, filariasis, hepatitis and cholera can also spread.
The epidemic of jaundice is also a result of contaminated water supply. In 1955-56, in Delhi, about 29,300 persons developed jaundice, following contamination of the drinking water supply from contents of a severed drain from Najafgarh in West Delhi. Similarly, epidemic of hepatitis-E has been caused due to drinking of polluted water. In India, major incidence of hepatitis epidemics has occurred in various urban centres in recent years as shown in Figure 16.2.
A few remedies to control the water pollution are:
1. Industries should enforce standards for water effluents;
2. The Pollution Control Boards must enforce the laws strictly;
3. adequate sewage disposal facilities should be developed, so that sewage is not directly released into the water stream;
4. the sewage and water treatment plant should be established by every municipal body;
5. for small and medium-sized industries, which cannot afford effluent plants, combined treatment plants be established;
6. a pollution tax be imposed, especially on industries responsible for water pollution;
7. more and more Sulabh type toilets be built;
8. action plans concerning water pollution should be completed within specified period; and
9. Above all, awareness among people about sanitation and its related impact on their health should be promoted.