Centre asks state wetland authority to act on herbicide use in Powai Lake

The union environment ministry has instructed the state government, via its State Wetland Authority, to act on complaints against the use of glyphosate-containing herbicides in Powai Lake
This permission was subject to certain conditions, namely that BMC will stop the ingress of raw sewage into the lake, carry out regular bioaccumulation studies along with water and sediment analysis reports (Vijay Bate)
This permission was subject to certain conditions, namely that BMC will stop the ingress of raw sewage into the lake, carry out regular bioaccumulation studies along with water and sediment analysis reports (Vijay Bate)
Published on Jan 20, 2022 07:46 PM IST
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ByPrayag Arora-Desai

Mumbai The union environment ministry has instructed the state government, via its State Wetland Authority, to act on complaints against the use of glyphosate-containing herbicides in Powai Lake, which were first raised last year by city-based NGO Vanashakti. The NGO was informed about the same on January 12 by a senior scientist with the ministry of environment, forests and climate change (MoEFCC), after it highlighted a November 2021 permission letter by the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), allowing the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) to proceed with spraying glyphosate in a “judicious” manner to control the growth of invasive weeds.

In a letter to the assistant municipal commissioner of S Ward, on November 2 last year, MPCB wrote, “Considering the submission made by the MCGM...water and sediment analysis reports, literature review and similar type of study, your request is considered and you are allowed to use glyphosate for the destruction of water hyacinth in Powai Lake.”

This permission was subject to certain conditions, namely that BMC will stop the ingress of raw sewage into the lake, carry out regular bioaccumulation studies along with water and sediment analysis reports, and submit reports of the same to MPCB.

The BMC had, in August last year, floated a tender for removal of water hyacinths at Ganesh Ghat, Pawarwadi and other areas of Powai Lake to make space for immersion activities during Ganesh Chaturthi. The following month, BMC launched a pilot project as part of which drones were used to spray glyphosate on two per cent of the lake’s water between September 3 and 5.

Based on the success of the program, larger quantities of glyphosate are set to be used to eradicate water hyacinths from the lake area, along the lines of a similar project in Aurangabad’ Salim Ali Lake, executed by the Aurangabad Municipal Corporation.

Stalin D, director of Vanashakti, which first raised the issue, said, “The lake is a crocodile habitat. You need to seek necessary clearances from the wildlife department, which BMC has clearly not done. Water hyacinths are invasive, but to remove them you need to first stop the entry of raw sewage into the lake, which has also not been achieved by BMC.” He added, “Bioaccumulation studies may tell you when the level of glyphosate in the water crosses detectable levels, but the more effective way to tackle the issue is through arresting the pollution source, not introducing known contaminants into a natural environment.”

An MPCB official familiar with the matter, seeking anonymity, said, “We have considered the merits of the case and given BMC permission based on certain strict conditions. If those conditions are complied with, we do not see any harm being done to the ecology. On the contrary, as demonstrated by the cleanup of Salim Ali Lake in 2019, the water hyacinth can be brought under control and the fish population in the lake will increase after such a cleanup.”

Narendra Toke, director of the environment and climate change department and member of the State Wetland Authority, did not respond to calls seeking comment on Thursday.

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