August 13, 2008

One Year After Report on River Pollution, Nothing Has Changed

By Chittaranjan Tembhekar

Mumbai: The water table in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) appears to be under persistent threat. Over 5,000 sq km of the Patalganga river basin on the south-eastern fringes of the metropolitan region is fast succumbing to chemical pollution and bad waste management.

A year after Wilbur Smith Associates Pvt Ltd-with the help of state agencies-reported about the high levels of contamination on the 54 km-long river stretch from Khopoli to Dharamtar creek due to chemical industries alongside, nothing much has changed. Researchers, who conducted the study, had recommended several measures to save the river's ecosystem.

The study pointed out that illegal discharge of untreated effluents from industrial areas, dumping of solid wastes from nearby municipal and industrial zones and washing of chemical tankers is rampant in the rivers surrounding Dushmi, Khopoli, Khalapur, Borivli, Rasayani, Chawani, Zenith bridge, Shilphata bridge, Savroli, Siddharth Nagar and Warsang.

At the onset of monsoon this year, the pollution levels were so high-especially its tributaries leading to the adjoining creeks- that locals in Khalapur, Taloja and Borivli have reported thousands of dead fish floating.

The report, submitted in July 2007, had recommended measures like shifting of discharging points to Dharamtar creek, provision of special washing facilities to truckers, development of sewerage treatment plants, shifting of solid waste dumps, regular monitoring of industrial discharges, and strengthening of common effluent treatment plants to protect the river from further contamination. But the report, a copy of which is with TOI, has been put in the cold storage.

The study warned of pollution in the surrounding forests, especially the bird sanctuary at Karnala and suggested demarcation of no-development zones.

It stated that government agencies like MPCB, MIDC, MJP and irrigation departments should impose measures like regular testing of effluents, waste treatment, and encourage environmentfriendly initiatives like plantation with the involvement of local civic bodies, besides planning assistance from MMRDA.

Despite such a grave situation, state authorities are passing the buck on each other. While metropolitan authorities say it is the responsibility of MPCBthe state pollution control board-to implement the report, the board officials blame metropolitan officials. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Environment Improvement Society (MMR-EIS ) had aided the study.

"We don't know much about the report's implementation. I hardly have any details about it. MMRDA Environment Society is the key agency involved in it. Meetings were to be held to decide on implementation but there is no progress as yet," said D K More, regional head of Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB).

Prasad Shetty of MMR-EIS said his department's job was only to hand over the study reports to the agencies concerned . "We don't think there is any progress in implementing the recommendations ," Shetty added.

(c) 2008 The Times of India. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.