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Cities, citizens must stop polluting water bodies

When India is staring at an impending water crisis, the pollution in its water bodies remains the key challenge to ensure sustainable management of available water resources

Water is the lifeline of our communities and environment.Aseries of emerging water challenges are posinga threat to the reliability of water resources. Our rivers and lakes are choking with sewage sludge, religious offerings, plastic, human bodies and what not. Even the industrial and municipal sewage directly go to rivers in most Indian cities. All of us have seen snow-white froth in lakes and rivers that is created because of concoction of chemicals. The situation in Bellandur Lake in Bengaluru and Yamuna River in Delhi are the perfect examples. According to a study by Karnataka Pollution Control Board, none of the 67 lakes surveyed in Bengaluru had water fit for drinking. The situation is so bad in Bengaluru that people have also witnessed the strange incident of lakes catching fire because of excessive disposal of industrial and chemical effluents into the lakes.
Water in our rivers and lakeshas become so polluted that it is not safe enough to bathe in. It is evident that water supply to households may be a municipal subject but the control of water resources is either with state or central governments. There is no doubt that cleaning of rivers cannot be done by municipal bodies because of their present condition. They neither have the resources nor the technical ability to play an important role in cleaning of rivers. Since rivers flow across many cities and states, the role of central government become important. However, municipal corporations can play a constructive role in cutting down on their disposal of sewage into rivers and implementing stringent rules so that people do not throw trash in water bodies. According to government reports, the main source of river and lake pollution is disposal of municipal sewage which accounts for almost 75 per cent.

Create ‘Respect Water’ culture
India is a religious country. It is the host of the biggest congregation of people along the river-Kumbh Melain which people take a dip on auspicious days.The role of rivers and water bodies is essential in performing various religious rituals. Despite having such a godly role of water bodies in our culture, water bodies do not get the respect they deserve.
According to a survey by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the sewage generation from Class – I and Class – II towns in March 2015, it was estimated that around 61,948 Million Litres per Day (MLD) sewage is being generated from these towns against which total sewage treatment capacity available was 23,277MLD, or only 37 per cent of the sewage generation. The cities and towns have not created adequate systems for sewage collection and its treatment and thus untreated waste water either goes into rivers or lakes or remains inundated on land causing ground water contamination.
National River Conservation Directorate (NRCD) under Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has also suggested that there is need to reduce the water footprint, including water conservation in the agriculture, industrial and other sectors. The savings in consumption of water will help to allocate more flow for ecological considerations in rivers. It also underlined the need for ensuring minimum/adequate flow in the rivers throughout the year, especially in the lean flow season. However, all these rules and regulations just remain on paper and there is hardly any serious implementation on ground. The state of our rivers tells the reality. If we are really serious to save our rivers, we as a community need to stand up and take initiatives collectively. People are joining hands together to save lakes in Bengaluru so are others in many cities along the Ganga River but their efforts need a ‘policy push’ for quick results.

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