Edukemy Kosmos



Why in news ? Recently, the  declaration was made during a two-day conference DHARA, which stands for Driving Holistic Action for Urban Rivers,


Status of urban rivers:

  • About 66% of stretches monitored in 290 rivers have high organic pollution, measured in terms of biological oxygen demand (BOD). The decline in the quantity and quality of water flow has reduced the productivity of many terrestrial, aquatic, and coastal zone ecosystems and led to loss of biodiversity, report by Central pollution control board.
  • The pollution load on rivers has been rising constantly. The report says over 370 major towns and cities are contributing to river pollution as the country has the wherewithal to treat only 30% of its urban water waste.
  • Yamuna is not the lone black spot. The Mithi in Mumbai is treading the same path with organic pollution increasing from Powai to Dharavi while the Hindon river is getting the same treatment from industrial waste between Saharanpur and Ghaziabad.

Causes of poor state of urban rivers:

  • Inadequate sewage treatment : Discharge of untreated wastewater is one of the main causes . There is either not sufficient treatment capacity or capacity is under-utilised in the states.
  • Human dumping : Urban household produces garbage in the form of papers, plastic bottles, glass, rubber, aluminium and also waste food. Some of these waste deposits take up to 200 years to decompose, eventually causing pollution and harming creatures :
  • Industrial processing : Industrial waste includes toxic chemicals such as mercury, lead, asbestos, sulphur and nitrates. Most industries lack a proper waste management system. These waste chemical change the color of the water, cause eutrophication and change the water temperature and posing a serious hazard to humans, animals, and plants.
  • Run off : Urban rivers are also contaminated by rain runofffrom oil-slick roads ,  construction, mining and dump sites or landfills .
  • Water hyacinth choking river: Vast  stretches of the Sabarmati River in Ahmedabad  is covered by this invasive species. Pollution and lack of freshwater are behind the sudden spread.
  • Mining and Quarrying : Active and abandoned mines can cause problems for river water quality due to exposed pollutants, such as heavy metals and acidic water.
  • Cremation & Last Rites : Cremation grounds in urban India are located on the banks of rivers. Varanasi is one such place with cremation grounds located right on banks of river Ganga .

Possible Consequences of River Water Pollution

  • Impact on flora and fauna : River contamination threatens biospheres and nature conservation areas. Migratory birds like Flamingos ,shun these rivers, and hence, they can face extinction.
  • Loss of Livelihood : Fish from polluted rivers is found to be high in mercury, lead and cadmium and hence, unfit for human consumption. Edible fish is contaminated with Salmonella, Shigella and other harmful microbes found in human faeces and leading to loss of livelihood for fisherman.
  • Disease & Health burden : Consuming polluted water can cause cancer, depletion of calcium from bones of humans and animals (Osteoporosis), loss of vision, impotence among men, sterility among women, Tuberculosis and other severe medical conditions.
  • Loss of export revenue : Freshwater fish varieties including the famous Hilsa, Rohu, Katla and prawns from Indian rivers once had a high demand in foreign countries, especially in the Middle East. Presently , several countries have banned imports of freshwater fish from India, including farmed varieties.

Challenges identified in urban river pollution management

  • Dense cluster of industries and surrounding slums discharging their semi-treated/untreated industrial/domestic wastewater into the urban river watershed,
  • Lack of effective coordination amongst stakeholder organisations,
  • Lack of awareness on usefulness of multivariate statistical analysis and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology in spatiotemporal river monitoring.
  • Balkanization of the environmental management authorities, municipal bodies and other water regulatory stakeholder authorities who are obligated to collaborate and coordinate with each other to manage water quality and keep rivers pristine
  • Data- and resource constraint situation due to unavailability of consistent and reliable river data.

Way forward:

  • Autonomous Agency: Urgent need to set up an autonomous agency with environmental experts who are familiar with the river  rather than bureaucrats.
  • Improving Flow: Lesser storage will improve water-flow downstream restoring the self-purifying capabilities of the It may raise the cost of the projects but should be done for long-term preservation of the river.

Decentralisation: River cleaning programmes are  centralized, largely driven by the Union Government. Greater involvement of State and Local Governments (bottom-up approach) can help in better implementation.

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