Experts sound alarm as Jharkhand rivers lose oxygen

  • Sanjoy Dey, Hindustan Times, Ranchi
  • Updated: Dec 14, 2015 15:51 IST
Pollution board has identified 207 km of stretches along eight rivers with high toxin levels. (Bijay/HT Photo)

Rising pollution, deficit rainfall and declining water levels have adversely impacted the water quality of Jharkhand rivers whose water has now turned dangerous for human consumption, environmentalists said on Sunday.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has identified 207 km of stretches along eight rivers in the state where the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) levels have exceeded the permissible limits. The BOD level was found between 3.2mg/l and 8.0mg/l, which could cause serious health hazards, they said.

Biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) is the amount of dissolved oxygen needed (i. e., demanded) by aerobic biological organisms to break down organic material present in a given water sample at certain temperature over a specific time period. Experts say the rise in oxygen demand only means the shortage of oxygen in water.

Quoting the CPCB report, Union environment minister Prakash Javadekar had recently said that as many as 302 polluted river stretches were identified in 275 rivers based on BOD levels, a key indicator of organic pollution in the country.

The board had monitored the water quality at 31 locations on 14 rivers of Jharkhand. Of these, 14 locations on eight rivers -- Bokaro, Damodar, Jumar, Karo, Koel, North Koel, Sankh and Subernarekha -- are not complying with the water quality criteria, officials said.

Regional in-charge of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) Gopal Sharma said, “Industrial effluents and municipal wastes are blamed for rising pollution in rivers that is true. But, deficit rainfall and surplus use of river water for various purposes are also responsible for rising BOD in river water.”

He said if BOD level has exceeded 3mg/l, the water is prohibited for use. “Direct consumption of such water could cause diarrohea, dysentery and ulcer. And, bathing could cause skin diseases,” he said.

A ZSI report prepared by Sharma revealed that industrial pollution has turned Damodar River into an aquatic desert in some points. “Aquatic diversity is negligible near Telmucho Bridge in Dhanbad and Phusro in Bokaro due to flow of flyash and industrial effluents,” he said.

Jharkhand minister Saryu Roy, who has been fighting against river pollution for more than a decade, said, “Quality of river water is worse than it appears in the CPCB survey.”

On May 12 this year, Roy had submitted a memorandum to the union minister of power and coal Piyush Goyel apprising him how the public sector units (PSUs) were polluting Jharkhand rivers.

“The union minister had given a three-month deadline to the PSUs to submit their pollution control plan. However, only DVC has submitted its plan till date,” the minister said.

Damodar Bachao Andolan (DBA), an NGO led by the Roy, launched an eight-day river source cleanliness campaign in association with Yugantar Bharti. “We launched a district level awareness programme on river cleanliness today. Our volunteers will assess the situation of water sources and take samples of water and aquatic life in rivers during the next two days,” Yugantar Bharti secretary Ashish Sheetal said.

He said that the status report of rivers would be shared with respective district administrations and urban local bodies. “A comprehensive water source cleanliness drive would be launched on December 18,” he said.

Meanwhile, the state government has sent a comprehensive plan to the Centre for protection of the Damodar. “We have recently sent a detailed plan to the Centre. The plan talks about checking industrial effluents, domestic and municipal wastes,” said SK Suman, member secretary of Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board (JSPCB).

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