The state government and civic body swung into action on Thursday following the Hindustan Times report about 17 lakh homes in Mumbai possibly receiving water with chemical residue.
While municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta asked the hydraulic department of the civic body to send a team to Igatpuri, a hill station around 130km northeast of Mumbai, to inspect the possibility of contamination of the Vaitarna River, Mumbai island city guardian minister Subhash Desai asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to examine the issue and send him a report. Mumbai suburban guardian minister Vinod Tawde went a step further and said he would ask the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) to probe the matter and take action against the guilty.
HT had reported on Thursday how the Igatpuri municipal council daily dumps domestic waste, bio-medical and industrial waste, animal carcass, toxic liquid and huge amounts of garbage into one of the streams, which locals and experts said, joins the Vaitarna River near the Middle Vaitarna and Upper Vaitarna dams. The western suburbs and parts of island city get their drinking water from these dams.
The water, which flows for 150km before reaching the city, may end up in homes as it is treated only once; that too at a 30-year-old treatment plant in Bhandup, which is not entirely equipped to rid the water of some of the chemicals.
“I have instructed the hydraulic department to visit the location for an inspection. Thereafter, in consultation with the state environment department and the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, we will take necessary action against the culprits,” said Mehta.
Civic officials said they were not aware of the Igatpuri municipal council’s shocking practice. “Serious action will be initiated if they are proved guilty. The level of contamination in the river needs to be checked. We have never tested samples of water at the source as our dams are located in dense forests,” said a senior civic official, on the condition of anonymity.
Taking a serious note of the report, Tawde said he will direct the MPCB to take immediate steps to stop the dumping of waste in the stream. “Those guilty of polluting water sources should face action. I am directing the authorities concerned to ensure that drinking water supplied to the citizens is safe,” he said.
Desai, too, said he would ask authorities to probe the matter and resolve it at the earliest.
Meanwhile, political parties and citizen activists were up in arms. Chairman of H-West (Khar and Bandra West) Federation, Anandini Thakoor, said the BMC claims to provide pure water, but they were recently supplied contaminated water, which changed after they lodged complaints. “If the water’s source itself is not looked at, the BMC will be more careless even in their supply to the citizens,” said Thakoor.
Devendra Amberkar, opposition leader in the BMC, wrote to the additional municipal commissioner Sanjay Mukherjee, who is in charge of water supply, asking him to take serious action against the waste dumping at Igatpuri. “It is very shocking to know the BMC is not aware [of the dumping]. But now that it has been brought to their notice, they must investigate and take stern action.”
Samajwadi Party group leader Rais Shaikh said the contamination is a blow to the city, which is already struggling with water shortage. “The administration should launch a probe and also get the water source checked,” said Shaikh.