Demand of the question:
It expects students to identify and write about those stretches of Himalayan rivers that are extremely polluted and hazardous for human consumption. It also expects students to state the reasons for the pollution of these river stretches with possible applicable solutions and government initiatives.
The larger Himalayan region is known as the water tower of Asia. Many rivers such as the Ganga, Brahmaputra, Barak (in the Meghna basin) and Indus originate in this region. However, water quality index has placed India at 120th place amongst 122 countries due to 70% of its river water is polluted.
Stretches of river which are extremely polluted and hazardous for human consumption:
- The Ganga river holds deep religious significance in India. But the alarming levels of pollutants and sewage waste that are discharged into it every day by over 1100 industrial units and several towns situated on its banks, have made it one of the most polluted rivers in the world.
- A recent report by the Central Pollution Control Board declared that the Ganga water is unfit for bathing, let alone drinking directly.
- The 2900-km long river and Assam’s lifeline, the Brahmaputra, today is reeling under water pollution in the form of sewage waste and oil discharge.
- Rapid urbanisation and lack of efficient waste disposal systems have now rendered it lifeless. A recent report states that at least 28 kms of the river stretch in Assam is heavily polluted.
- The Yamuna rivers stretch in the Delhi NCR region, which was once the lifeline of Delhi and one of India’s most sacred rivers, has also been reduced to being one of the most polluted rivers in the world.
- Once a major water source for Lucknow, the Gomti rivers stretch in lucknow and nearby region and its marine life is almost dead now, consumed by the high pH levels in it.
- Flooding during monsoons worsens Himalyan rivers pollution problem, as it washes and moves solid waste and contaminated soils into its rivers and wetlands.
Water pollution is a major environmental issue in India. Due to the large scale industrial development, long term effects of green evolution and other soci-economic reasons, the pollution of Himalayan rivers forms a centre of debate. The following are the reasons for the pollution of these stretches of river:
- Untreated Sewage: A 2007 study found that discharge of untreated sewage is the single most important source of pollution of Himalayan rivers water in India. There is a large gap between generation and treatment of domestic waste water in India. The problem is not only that India lacks sufficient treatment capacity but also that the sewage treatment plants that exist do not operate and are not maintained.
- A 1995 report claimed 114 Indian cities were dumping untreated sewage and partially cremated bodies directly into the Ganges River. Lack of toilets and sanitation facilities causes open defecation in rural and urban pill areas of India, like many developing countries.
- Organic matter: In 2010 the water quality monitoring found almost all Himalayan rivers with high levels of BOD (a measure of pollution with organic matter). For instance, BOD in river Yamuna canal (247), river Yamuna at Delhi (70).
- Coliform levels: Rivers Yamuna, Ganga, Gomti, Ghaghara River, are amongst the other most coliform polluted water bodies in India. For context, coliform must be below 104 MPN/100 ml, preferably absent from water for it to be considered safe for general human use, and for irrigation where coliform may cause disease outbreak from contaminated-water in agriculture.
- Heavy untreated water effluents are directly send in to river without treatment is also one of the aggravating factor.
- Recently, the Central Water Commission (CWC) has reported that the samples from two-thirds of the water quality stations spanning India’s major rivers are contaminated by one or more heavy metals, exceeding safe limits set by the Bureau of Indian Standards.
Water conservation in India is gaining pace. The Ganga rejuvenation efforts by the union government, the Yamuna clean up are some of the government initiated efforts.
- The Union government recently formed a new Jal Shakti (water) ministry, which aims at tackling water issues with a holistic and integrated perspective on the subject.
- The government has given importance to the problem of river pollution with the establishment of a National River Conservation Authority chaired by the Prime Minister. The river conservation programme was initiated with the Ganga Action Plan (GAP) in the year 1985.
- Namami Gange Programme’, is an Integrated Conservation Mission, approved as ‘Flagship Programme’ by the Union Government to accomplish the twin objectives of effective abatement of pollution, conservation and rejuvenation of National River Ganga.
- Citizen led initiatives to keep clean river will also be one of the most effective ways. e.g. Every weekend, a group of professionals – doctors, engineers, and scientists – assemble at the banks of Yamuna river near the ITO, armed with brooms and shovels for cleaning up the waste strewn along the ghat.
- A larger perspective of pollution needs to be taken. Encouraging farmers to move towards organic farming, failing which they must be encouraged to use biological pesticides or safer chemical pesticides.
- One way to deal with the problem will be to permit water quality rights of citizens. State governments are responsible for implementing water pollution control laws.
Rivers are considered sacred in India. The large scale urbanization and impacts of unscientific agriculture and biodiversity loss led to worsen the problem of river water pollution in India. If sustained efforts and decentralised approach is taken then it will surely help to prevent the pollution of this precious natural resource and achieve the target of safe drinking water for all by 2024.