When residents of a housing society in Borivli found buffalo carcasses dumped into the Dahisar river nearby, they were shocked.
Fearing a health hazard , they along with environment activists have complained to the police and the Brihanmubai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Residents of Srikrishna Complex, a housing society with over 250 families located near the 18 cow sheds and the river, were the first ones to notice the carcasses on Sunday and report the case.
Pankaj Trivedi, a resident who contacted the BMC’s disaster management department and the local police station, said he checks the river every morning to ensure that the housing colony’s residents do not dump garbage into it.
He was shocked to see rotting buffalo carcasses strewn in the river.
“Dogs and crows were eating the bodies and there was a strong stench in the area,” said Trivedi, who is also a member of local river conservation group, River March, which is planning to clean the Dahisar river.
“There is a tunnel beneath our building from which water flows into the river. The owners of these cow shed have been using it to dump cattle dung and carcasses. It has been happening for ages,” said Biren Desai, another resident of the society.
A local cow shed owner, Nagesh Singh, admitted that cattle owners have been dumping carcasses of calves.
“The owners have been fined repeatedly by the BMC for functioning with an expired licence. Some of us had instructed them not to dump dung or carcasses in the tunnel. But if calves die, the owners of the cow sheds call people to skin them and then dump the carcasses in the tunnel that releases water into the river,” said Singh.
He added that the other four cow sheds have been informing BMC officials of cattle deaths so that the carcasses are disposed of according to prescribed norms.
The BMC has a designated cattle disposal centre at Kora Kendra in Borivli.
Municipal officials said they are unable to take action since they are not sure which cow shed owner had dumped cattle carcasses.
“We will book the culprits under section 381 (public nuisance) after we investigate who is responsible for the offence,” said Kishor Gandhi, ward officer of R Central municipal ward.
“Also, we will block the tunnel flowing from the cow shed to the river after assessing if it is also used as a sewage line for any residential areas,” added Gandhi.
Janak Daftari, water conservationist, said that the National Green Tribunal directed the state government to form a committee to restore rivers in Mumbai.
However, no schemes have been launched to ensure that this is looked into.
“The Dahisar river is already plagued by poor water quality combined with the constructions of walls around the river. Now, there have been complaints of animal carcasses being dumped into the river. All these amount to criminal activities,” said Daftari.
Doctors say the practice is harmful
Dr Om Srivastava, a senior infectious diseases expert shared the residents’ concerns and said there are a number of airborne and waterborne infections that can spread owing to the decomposing carcasses
“Along with bacterial and viral infections, there is also a risk of people coming in contact with a range of fungal organisms that originate from decomposing flesh of cattle. There have been scenarios in which some viruses —which are known to die once they are out of the the infected animals’ bloodstream — have survived for a week or longer and infected people,” said Srivastava.
Dr Suresh Jagdale, senior researcher from Bombay Veterinary College said there are a range of infections such as Anthrax — a serious bacterial disease originating from sheep and cattle — that affect the skin and lungs and can be transmitted to humans, causing severe skin ulceration
“The bacteria that killed the animal can certainly spread through air and water and infect people living in the periphery of the area. It can be both water and airborne,” said Jagdale.