Environmentalists have identified two lakes near Bhandup (East) along the Eastern Express Highway, that are contaminated with untreated sewage and garbage — a threat to marine life and birds feeding in it.
Non-government organisation Vanashakti filed complaints with the salt department, state pollution control board and the civic body about the two salt water lakes, spread across 10 acres each, being strewn with plastic bags that have severely degraded the water quality.
These lakes are formed after salt water flows in and develops the water body from creeks during high tide. However, they are not used as salt pans because the level of water varies with the tide.
“These water bodies, adjoining Bhandupeshwar Kund, are choking because of the careless disposal of waste and untreated sewage being dumped into it by persons passing by the expressway. Open defecation is also seen at various sites around the lake,” said Stalin D, director, Vanashakti. “The time has come for concrete action by banning plastic, since it is a common problem for all water bodies in the state.”
He added that sewage needs to be diverted into proper sewer lines and channelled to Bhandup pumping station. “There is a need to install nets, provide round the clock security and erect barricades to prevent people from disposing waste,” said Stalin. “If the problem is left unaddressed, we will be constrained to initiate legal proceedings against authorities for their inaction.”
A Supreme Court order from 2001 said that natural resources such as lakes, forests, ponds, hillocks, and mountains are important for maintaining the ecological balance and needs to be protected. It also stated that if fallen to disuse, these sites cannot be used for building houses and authorities are “duty bound” to clean and develop them to prevent an ecological disaster.
Officials from the salt department passed the buck as they told HT that the jurisdiction to take action in such matters lies with the suburban collector, Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) and the civic body. “We have asked our officers to carry out a site visit to check the severity of the situation. We will be sharing the report with MPCB and Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to initiate action,” said PK Sharma, junior assistant, salt department.
MPCB officials said a water quality test will be conducted at the site. “We will take samples from both lakes and check for the level of pollution and conduct a chemical analysis. However, we will direct the ward office to instruct their officers to remove the trash at the earliest,” said a senior official from MPCB’s sub-regional office.
BMC officials said that sewer lines were connected to both lakes. “Sewage is being treated at the Bhandup sewage treatment plant. However, when it comes to the issue dumping trash, we will increase security around the lakes,” said a senior civic official from the sewerage operations department.
Meanwhile, a study by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) for Nature found 68 lakes surveyed in Mumbai that were not cared for, 63.2% was used to dump garbage. About 60% were used for washing clothes and as toilets with 22% used for bathing. Religious offerings were disposed in 41% lakes and 32.4% had sewage released into them.
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Wetlands such as lakes, ponds or tanks stabilise the coastline, control erosion and provide a habitat for plant and animal species, prevent floods and purify and increase the groundwater level during monsoons. The also regulate climate change by storing carbon. Besides, they also contribute to the country’s economy by providing fishery resources, timber, wildlife resources, medicines and agricultural products.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
· If you live close to a water body, make sure you photograph it. It can stand as evidence in court if there’s ever an attempt to reclaim it.
· If you see truckloads of debris being dumped into it, inform your ward officer and police station.
· As a step further, file a written complaint to them as well as the city or suburban collector.
· Those involved with dumping debris, from the developer to the contract workers, can be booked under various criminal charges and under the Environment Protection Act.
· If you want to get a polluted water body cleaned in your neighbourhood, contact the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board on 022-24020781 / 24014701 / 24010437.