Sewer lines in four municipal corporations and councils along the Ulhas river will be connected to sewage treatment plants (STP), the Maharashtra government told the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on December 2.
The river supplies potable water to Badlapur, Navi Mumbai, Ambernath, Ulhasnagar, and many villages on its banks, which stretch from Karjat to Kalyan.
The diversion of sewage drains from the river to STPs is a short-term measure suggested in the affidavit filed before the tribunal last month, in response to an order which sought an action plan that would prevent the river from being polluted.
Currently, the river is heavily polluted with untreated domestic and industrial effluents from Kalyan-Dombivli, Ambernath, Ulhasnagar, and Kulgaon-Badlapur.
Only 10% of the 216 million litres a day (MLD) sewage generated daily by the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC) is treated before it is released into the river. Although existing STPs can treat 123 MLD, only 22 MLD is treated. Worse still, all of the 80 MLD sewage generated by the Ulhasnagar municipal corporation is discharged without being treated. About 40% — 5MLD of 18MLD – from the Kulgaon-Badlapur Municipal Council gets treated.
Although 60% of the sewage from the Ambernath Municipal Corporation goes through the STP, the affidavit states that there is an additional 30% area under the civic body’s jurisdiction that needs an underground sewage facility. The existing sewage network too is inadequate and needs to be revamped.
“At least the state is beginning with short-term measures. But we would like to see the work speed up,” said petitioner Stalin D of non-government organisation Vanashakti.
In 2013, Vanashakti moved the tribunal to direct the MPCB to shut all polluting industries discharging untreated effluents into the Ulhas river.
Based on monitoring conducted in May 2014 and earlier, an interim report by the National Institute of Oceanography concluded that the upper and middle zones of the Ulhas estuary have been degraded, owing to a release of domestic and industrial effluents. It added that such conditions are not conducive to diverse aquatic fauna.
The Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation has started the tendering process to lay down disposal lines at Dombivli and Ambernath for Rs241 crore, as per the recommendations of the National Institute of Oceanography. This long-term measure has a time frame of three years. “The Ulhas river is rapidly deteriorating, but corporations have done little to show they are serious about protecting this last fresh water river,” said Stalin D.
The Ulhas river supplies potable water to Badlapur, Navi Mumbai, Ambernath, Ulhasnagar, and many villages on the river boundary starting from Karjat to Kalyan.
The river flows through the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), which has a daily water requirement close to 10,657 million litres. It can also fulfil the water requirement of Thane district through which it flows.
The river is heavily polluted by discharge of untreated effluents from various industries and domestic sewage from Ambernath, Dombivali, and Ulhasnagar
Sample tests carried out by reputed organisations have found biochemical oxygen demand and chemical oxygen demand as high as 20 times permissible limits.