An acute shortage of water is something that India faces despite being blessed with a tropical climate which ensures more 180cms of precipitation. This is because of the more than 80% of India’s surface water in polluted. Untreated sewage is the single most important factor which makes the water bodies unfit for direct usage.
There are other sources of pollution too such as the surface run-off from the agricultural industry and the untreated water discharge from factories. People take no concern to mend their taps and pipes or accept Rain-Water harvesting which is a proven technique to conserve freshwater.
This polluted water also seeps through the surface and poisons the groundwater. It is estimated that cities with populations of more than one lakh people generate around 16,662 million liters of wastewater in a day.
Strangely, 70% of the people in these cities have access to sewerage facilities. Cities and towns located on the banks of Ganga generate around 33% of the wastewater generated in the entire country.
Some Of The Most Polluted Rivers In India
- GANGA RIVER- Ganga is the most sacred river and yet is the most polluted river in the country. It is the third-largest river in the world and is the drinking source for over 2 billion people.
- The ever increasing pressure has led to the massive dumping of untreated discharge in the river making it heavily polluted.
- As an accumulation of a large amount of bacteria from the sewage and chemicals from the untreated discharge from the factories make the water unfit for direct consumption and when used spreads different kinds of water-borne diseases.
- YAMUNA RIVER- The Yamuna River is the second most polluted river in India. Although it boasts to have its roots of origin from the Himalayas it becomes so polluted as it moves downwards that it becomes unfit for usage.
- The main reasons behind this are the improper management of the sewage waste before dumping by the Indian Govt.
- The industrial untreated discharge and the agricultural run-offs further add to the toxicity of the river. Unlike the normal pH level of rivers which is 7, the pH level of this river is 11 which suggest that it is so basic that it is almost poisonous to consume.
- SABARMATI RIVER- Sabarmati is a major river in the state of Gujarat and is one the biggest rivers of the western India which originates from the Arravali Hills and drain in the Arabian Sea.
- As per the CPCB reports, Sabarmati river in Gujarat is the third most polluted river in India and the most amount of fecal coliform bacteria are found here, which means the river water is unfit for usage as it is over-dumped with sewage.
- DAMODAR RIVER- Damodar River is called the sorrow of Bengal because it floods very frequently. And the river is one of the most polluted rivers in the country.
- This river majorly gets polluted by the major industries sprouting on its banks rapidly. Therefore the river gets highly polluted in its West Bengal and Jharkhand banks.
Causes Of Water Pollution
- UNTREATED SEWAGE- A 2007 study found that untreated sewage waste is the single most important factor responsible for the large scale pollution of surface and groundwater bodies in India. There is a large gap between the generation and the treatment of sewage in India. The amount of sewage treatment plants are not enough and are in dysfunctional conditions because of inefficient technology.
- Most of the government-owned treatment plants remain closed due to the inefficient power supply and hence the waste collected in these areas either gets evaporated or percolates into the soil and this is how the soil and the groundwater get polluted.
- In 1992 the World Health Organization claimed that out of 3119 towns in India only 209 had partial sewage treatment plants and only 8 cities had full wastewater treatment plants, rest all the cities were dumping the toxic wastewater directly into the downstream flowing rivers.
- The water from these rivers was then used for drinking, washing and bathing purposes. Some reports also claimed that the partially cremated bodies and huge amounts of untreated sewage were being dumped into the river Ganga and the practices of open-defecation in rural and urban pills add to the toxicity of the water bodies.
- ORGANIC MATTER- In 2009 the Water Quality Monitoring found almost all rivers with a high BOD ( biochemical oxygen demand) count ( a measure of pollution with organic waste).
- Where a water sample with a 5-day BOD between 1 and 2 mg O/L indicates a very clean water, 3 to 8 mg O/L indicates a moderately clean water, 8 to 20 indicates borderline water, and greater than 20 mg O/L indicates ecologically-unsafe, polluted water, the major rivers in India were found to be severely polluted with a 490 count for Markanda river, 364 counts for Kali river, 353 counts for Amlakhadi river and 247 counts for Yamuna Canal.
- The river water near the cities was found majorly polluted and the BOD levels were found to be adequate to sustain the aquatic life towards the rural areas.
- COLIFORM LEVELS- Fecal coliform bacteria usually form when the water gets contaminated with untreated sewage. The level should remain below 104MPN/100ml for the water to be safe for human consumption but the rivers in India were recorded to have more than 500MPN/100ml of coliform content.
- Rivers Yamuna, Ganga, Gomti, Ghaghara River, Chambal, Mahi, Vardha, Godavari are some of the many rivers which were found with high coliform content and hence is rendered unfit for any general use.
- RAPID MISMANAGED URBANIZATION- The single biggest reason of such a massive rate of water pollution in India is because of the mismanaged and uncontrolled urbanization.
- Urbanization has only gone up in India from the last few decades but only at a high cost of the aquatic life. The urbanization of the country was not planned and executed properly, that is why the drainage system in cities gets cluttered and starts to flood in the rainy seasons.
- Moreover, there is no proper provision for the treatment of wastewater and surface run-off from the excessive usage of chemical fertilizers and pesticides pollute the water bodies to unimaginable levels.
FIVE OTHER CAUSES OF POLLUTION
- Industrial waste
- Improper practices in the agricultural sector
- Reduction in water quantity in rivers in plains
- Social and religious practices like dumping dead bodies in water, bathing, throwing waste in water
- Oil leaks from ships
- Acid rain
- Global warming
EFFECTS OF WATER POLLUTION
- MACRO LEVEL HEALTH- At the macro level, water pollution can inflate massive epidemics. In a country like India where large numbers of people live in close vicinity in ugly living conditions struggling to arrange a minimum wage for food, it comes naturally that these people wouldn’t care much about the condition of the water they are consuming and this could have consequences.
- ON THE COUNTRY- When toxic wastewater is left on the ground to rot. The water either evaporates and leaves by the toxic residues or the water percolates into the soil polluting the widely used ground-water. Either way, it affects the soil from which the agricultural sector gets affected and hamper food growth. This, in turn, affects the food supply and escalates scarcity and reduces the country’s overall growth.
HOW CAN YOU HELP PREVENT WATER POLLUTION
- Always try to conserve water. Take small steps like mend leaking pipes and taps and bring big changes.
- Reduce or minimalize the usage of detergents and bleaches for cleaning.
- Avoid flushing contaminated liquids, pills, drugs, and medications, etc down the drain.
- Keep out the oil, fat and grease and other non-soluble liquids from the sink.
- Don’t use the toilet as a bin.
- Avoid direct dumping into the water-bodies.
- Reduce the excess usage of chemical herbicides, pesticide, and fertilizers.
- Urge governments or come up with appropriate and actionable waste-water treatment plans, if you can.
- Plant trees. Practice afforestation in your community.
- Insist on using environmentally safe products.
WHAT STEPS HAS THE INDIAN GOVERNMENT TAKEN TO OVERCOME WATER POLLUTION
Water conservation and rejuvenation are gaining pace for all the good reasons and awareness is the step to the solution of the problem.
The Indian government’s Ganga rejuvenation program called the “Namami Gange” has gained much popularity and is a move towards a clean Ganga.
Similarly, this popularly initiated project has inspired other states to come together to clean up the river flowing in their region.
It is not something that can be achieved overnight and we see a long way to go but at the least, it is important to start walking to reach the destination.
70% percent of our body is made up of water. Therefore it is needless to emphasize the importance of keeping our water bodies clean.
Not just the rivers because they are the source of fresh water but also the oceans and other water bodies.
The aquatic life on earth is so diverse and beautiful that it is a big sin on our part to let these beautiful creatures die without a valid cause and only for our greed.
It is important and high time for us to acknowledge and recognize the intensity of our codependent nature with all forms of life on earth and hence quit thinking that we are self-sufficient and go on killing the environment just for our selfish and unlimited want for comfort.