Combating river pollution: ‘Will introduce norms to lower detergent phosphate levels’
The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has assured the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) that it will introduce new norms for lower detergent phosphate levels in a bid to control river pollution and foaming in rivers.
On January 10, CPCB’s divisional head Ajay Aggarwal wrote to Ganesh Bora, IT director, Rotary Club of Walhekarwadi, Chinchwad, that the CPCB had been following-up the matter of use of phosphates in the manufacturing of soaps and detergents with the BIS since November, 2017. Aggarwal forwarded a letter received from the BIS on November 29, 2019, stating that the standards in the use of phospahtes in detergents had been revised.
Aggarwal wrote to Bora as the matter was being pursued relentlessly by the Rotary Club of Walherkarwadi, which repeatedly wrote to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the CPCB on the foaming of rivers due to high phosphate levels in detergents.
This group of enthusiastic environment activists has been working on the cleaning of the Pavna river in Pimpri-Chinchwad, which is among the most polluted rivers in Maharashtra.
“The technical committee responsible for formulation of standards on detergents has revised the standards of detergents by incorporating restriction of limit of phosphate (maximum) based builder in detergent,” a letter from the BIS said. This letter from UK Das, head (chemical), BIS, then specified the new limits for total phosphates in household laundry detergent powders, synthetic detergents for industrial purpose, household laundry detergent bars and synthetic detergent for washing woolen and silk fabrics.
“The presence of phosphorous in river water bodies contaminated by untreated sewage has become a major concern across India. Even the Clean Ganga Mission is facing similar problems as untreated urban waste continues to be discharged into the river,” said Bora, who is passionate about river cleaning and conservation.
Besides Bora, other members of the Rotary Club Of Walhekarwadi such as Pradeep Walhekar and Somnath Harpude studied the reasons of water pollution and found that detergents used in daily life was a major issue.
“We began studying the reasons, by constantly updating ourselves with research on internet, wrote to various departments besides the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), who came to test the river pollution levels after we persistently requested them to,” Bora said. According to him, the high use of phosphorous/phosphates in detergents was among the significant causes of river pollution, also causing the river to froth and foam.
Bora said their research showed that the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs had formulated scientific parameters for phosphates in cleansing agents way back in 1968. Also, the maximum level of phosphate to be used in detergents had not been specified.
The group then decided to approach the ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation; Environment, Forest and Climate Change, and Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) to raise this issue.
Senior union minister Nitin Gadkari was also approached with a request to help initiate amendments in BIS standards to fix maximum level of phosphate in detergents.
“When we received the mail (from CPCB), we felt there is much more work to be done. This amendment is a milestone in stopping river pollution,” said Pradip Walhekar, Rotary water committee, Pune District.
Pollution in Pavana River
The Pavana river originates from Pavana lake near Lonavla and meets Mula river at Sangvi near Pune. The river flows a distance of 60 kilometres, passing through the suburbs of Kalewadi, Punawale, Chinchwad and Pimpri and meets Mula river in Pune. In 2018, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) listed it among the five heavily polluted rivers of Maharashtra. Untreated sewage, garbage, accumulation of silt and discharge of untreated waste were listed as the major causes of pollution.