The white foam spotted along the Versova beach on Wednesday and Thursday was caused by large quantities of untreated industrial and domestic waste from the Malad creek, experts said, calling it an uncommon sight in Mumbai and warning that the foam could affect both human and animal life.
The incident comes days after the seas near Mumbai, Kerala and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands were found to be among the most polluted in the world, by a global study by researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Germany.
For two days in a row, waves have been depositing a white foam on the Versova beach. A senior official from the Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) said, “There are a number of industries releasing effluents into the Malad creek, apart from slums discharging domestic waste. The cocktail of pollutants is leading to this froth.”
“It only indicates sewage treatment, even at the basic level, is not being done by the civic body and there is an immediate need for sewage treatment plant (STP),” the official said.
Experts said the foam is dangerous, as it contains noxious substances that could harm not only the local population but also birds and other creatures. It could cause health problems to residents of the area. They pointed out how other harmful creatures could be hiding in this froth and cause irreparable damage to the people living around the area.
In December last year, in a similar case, the Bellandur and Vartur lakes in Bangalore were filled with effluents. One could only see froth and hyacinth. The froth emerged because chemical effluents were not being treated before release.
Scientists closely monitoring the quality of water bodies in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region said STPs were functioning only at the primary (basic) level across the city and only the Bhandup treatment plant was treating sewage till the secondary level. “When minerals in the water react with untreated, discarded sewage or even faecal coliform (bacteria), it produces froth. While Bangalore lakes saw massive frothing caused by aquaculture (farming of aquatic organisms) combined with untreated sewage, pollution is the main cause for this foam along Versova,” said Goldin Quadros, a senior scientist at the Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History.
A scientist from the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) said the emergence of foam was a direct result of pollution and posed a great threat to marine life too.
“Apart from untreated waste, the generation of algal bloom in open seas that gets pushed ashore overtime also leads to foaming. However, even this natural phenomenon is from pollution in water as chemical effluents lead to the formation of algae,” said Baban Ingole, chief scientist, NIO. “The foam reduces oxygen in water, enters the gills of marine organisms and chokes them.”
“We are unaware of the source of this foam. There is regular sewage treatment at Lokhandwala and then the water is discharged into the Malad creek. However, we will be carrying out a detailed study of the source of the foam coming with the help of our sewage treatment department and other wards,” said a senior official from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation.