Industrial effluents choke Jojari
Till a few years ago, one had to wait for the rainy season to enjoy watching water flow in the Jojari river, but now water can be seen throughout the year, though it stays stagnant and is coloured. The coloured water in this river of Rajasthan testifies pollution caused by industrial effluents.
Jojari flows from the north-east to south-west, 83 km from the hills near Pondlu village in Nagaur district. Before it meets the Luni river near Khejalda Khurd in Jodhpur district, small streams join the Jojari in the upper part. Textile and steel rerolling units operating in the Jodhpur industrial area have been releasing untreated polluted water into the Jojari river for the last several years. A common effluent treatment plant (CETP) with 20 MLD (million litres per day) capacity is in place for the treatment of the polluted water but the plant is not working with its full capacity. Besides industrial effluents, domestic sewage makes way to the river, adding to pollution of groundwater in surrounding areas.
“The pollution in Jojari is mainly due to untreated and partially treated wastewater generated upstream by industrial activities and domestic sewage. The factors responsible for untreated and partially treated wastewater going directly into the river are inefficiency of CETP, direct disposal of wastewater from authorised and unauthorised industries, and untreated municipal sewage,” Prof Ajit Pratap Singh of the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, said in a report. Prof Singh was appointed by NGT as the court commissioner to look into river pollution.
In Thar desert, where water shortage is a major problem, scientists are more concerned about this form of water pollution. “We are moving towards chemical desertification, because natural vegetation is ending around the river Jojari. Three to four decades ago, there were medicinal plants, weed and other species, such as Tephrosia and Indigofera, in the vicinity of the river, but now they have disappeared from these areas. Other plants are also not growing due to the formation of a chemical layer on upper soil. This pollution is a big danger to biodiversity. Juliflora, which is considered the hardest small tree in the desert climate, can be seen burnt in polluted areas,” said Dr Suresh Kumar, a retired principal scientist from the Central Arid Zone Research Institute (CAZRI).
“Units operating in Jodhpur use a large amount of fresh water for industrial processing, but the so-called treated water is not being reused. This has increased the toxic substance in large quantities in the Jojari. Our flora and fauna are no longer safe. In the river, the sludge, which is hazardous waste, must have a scientific disposal,” said Dr Sukha Ram Vishnoi who has studied the floral diversity of the Jojari.
A report of the central and Rajasthan pollution control boards about groundwater pollution around Jojari said the amount of nitrate is more than the prescribed limit in the water of all open wells, except one at village Dhawa. The high amount of nitrate was because of release of untreated sewerage water. The samples of groundwater of Jojari river were also found polluted due to untreated sewerage and industrial pollution. Iron content was found to be in high proportion. While iron should not be more than 0.3 mg/litre, it was 7.34 mg/ litre in the groundwater of industrial areas. The permissible limit of total dissolved solids (TDS) in groundwater is 500 mg/litre but it was found to be 10,761 mg/litre in an open well.
Consultant physician Dr Harish Agrawal said the amount of iron and nitrate more than the prescribed limits is harmful to health. “It affects liver, blood and bones. It may cause blue baby syndrome,” he said.
UR Beniwal, a resident of Sangriya village, close to an industrial area, said the industrial water has polluted the water of wells around Jojari. “Crops produced with this water may adversely affect human health.”
ILLEGAL TEXTILE UNITS
The biggest challenge is to shut down the operation of illegal textile units. After the NGT order, such units are
being closed, but the problem still remains. “We have closed down 63 illegal units in Luni tehsil and 10 units in Jodhpur tehsil area. Power connections of these units have been disconnected and the infrastructure created for fabric printing has been broken. The NGT has now directed the police to take regulatory action against such illegal units,” said Jagdish Singh, regional officer of the Rajasthan Pollution Control Board.
SIDE EFFECTS UP TO 50 KM
Increasing pollution in Jojari has become so severe that its side effects are now being seen in Doli, Araba and other villages located 50 km away from Jodhpur city. Prof Singh, who was appointed by NGT, pointed out that the flow extent of Jojari river does not reach up to the downstream of Doli village in April 2000. It was found that in April 2010, the flow of the river started stagnating in Doli.
There is no variation in the river extent from April 2000 to April 2005. But a considerable variation exists in the flow extent of the river from April
2005 to April 2018. While analysing on the basis of satellite imagery, Prof Singh explained that the river extent is calculated for no rainfall condition.
The increase in the extent of the Jojari is due to increase in industrial and sewage discharge from 2005 to
2018. Now the river extent and area affected seem to have reached beyond Doli with impacted area equalling to
406.37 hectares, that is about 100 times the area affected in 2010 for the premonsoon period. The villages affected by accumulated polluted water are located in Barmer district; villagers have knocked the NGT doors. “Due to the discharge coming from Jodhpur, the soil of our fields has become reddish. Chemical water has weakened the foundations of houses. There have been cracks in the walls of many houses,” said Kishan Vishnoi, a resident of Doli. “Crops no longer grow in the fields affected by polluted water. We have urged the administration to solve the problem many times, but no one has made any effort. Blackbucks and other wildlife are dying by drinking this water,” said Narpat Singh Rajpurohit, sarpanch of Arba village.
Jojari is the sole outlet for Jodhpur city’s storm water. Over the years, substantial erosion of the river banks has taken place making them ineffective in holding the floodwater. As recorded by the water resources department during the 1979 floods, the floodwater spread over an average of 250-300 metre on either side of the banks. With the passage of time and population growth, there is rapid urbanisation along the banks.
RIVERFRONT ON PAPER
The Jodhpur municipal corporation had prepared a Jojari riverfront development project a decade ago. For the first phase, technical sanction of ₹125 crore was issued but later the project could not be implemented. Mahesh Sharma, retired superintending engineer, said, “Alarming situation in Jojari is leading to health hazards on account of contaminated surface and groundwater, bio-diversity perils, unaesthetic environment to the city residents. Immediate steps are required to restore quality water flow in the river and restore environmental and ecological balance of the system”.
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