Stay away from these three beaches in Mumbai, your trash is making the water toxic
You live in a city of beaches — beaches you may soon not be able to visit.
The water that hits the shores of Mumbai’s Chimbai, Juhu and Versova beaches is contaminated with plastic, household garbage and dangerously high levels of faecal matter, and all of this is from our homes. With the monsoon season in full swing, more than 1.5 lakh kg of this trash washes ashore every day. The trash is carried into the sea and on to shores by the nullahs and drains that run across Mumbai.
The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) studied the quality of water at 14 water bodies around the city between January and April to find domestic waste was the largest source of this pollution.
The pollution is indicated by a Water Quality Index (WQI), which showed the water at all these beaches was toxic.
The WQI levels around Chimbai beach was 42.56 (bad, polluted). At Juhu, it was 43.72 (bad, polluted) and at Versova, it was 37.72 (very bad, heavily polluted) (see box for categories).
The study found that the presence of faecal coliform (FC) – the bacterium found in human and animal excreta – was 16 times over the safe limit at Chimbai and Juhu, and nine times the safe limit at Versova. The safe limit, according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), is 100/100 millilitres (ml). In Chimbai and Juhu, the level at 1600/100ml; in Versova it was 920/100ml.
In simple terms, this means you would be swimming or playing with faecal matter when you visit these beaches — ingestion of which can lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, stomach pain, headache and fever, respiratory infections, and skin and eye irritation. The faecal bacteria also thrives on the sands and sediments on the beaches.
Further, the waste that ends up in these waters are consumed by planktons. The fish in the sea eat these planktons, and much of the fish in the market comes from these waters.
A study by NGO ReefWatch Marine Conservation found the average weight of litter at these three beaches — every 200 metres — is half a ton. The waste comprises of plastic, clothing, fishing nets, toys, tyres, batteries, food wrappers, cigarettes and even vehicular parts. The mean weight of litter on every 200m stretch at Chimbai was 227kg, Versova 54.15kg and Juhu 19.7kg.
“We can multiply these figures by 1,000 to estimate the amount of trash ending up on the beaches during the monsoon. Microplastics, 5-10 microns big, are consumed by planktons. The base of the food chain gets affected as the planktons are eaten by bigger fish, which are further consumed by humans,” said Animish Limaye, former ReefWatch Marine Conservation member, who had conducted the study
“The current condition (of the water) is worrisome, especially for aquatic life to survive around these beaches,” said a senior MPCB official from the water quality department. “The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has been asked to follow-up to ensure nullahs and drains carrying the trash are cleaned up,” he said.
MPCB officials said the BMC was asked to increase the level of treatment at all marine outfalls in the city. The official said slums located along the three beaches were the primary source of trash. “Slum pockets need a better waste disposal system. As there are no pucca roads, BMC dumpers don’t reach these sites,” said the official.”
BMC officials said measures were being taken to control the amount of trash. “Apart from increasing manpower and equipment to clean beaches, the BMC’s solid waste management department has conducted collection and composting drives at slum pockets,” said a senior civic official. “The treatment at marine outfalls will be improved.”