Central pollution board corrects state counterpart: Most polluted rivers in Maharashtra

Mumbai: In August, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) had claimed the number of polluted stretches river stretches had dropped from 49 to 34. However, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has disputed its state counterpart’s claim of any reduction. Further, the CPCB went on to inform the MPCB that the number of polluted river stretches had, in fact, increased from 49 to 53 in 2017-18.

Also, of the 650 cities and towns located along these stretches in the country, 161 of them were in Maharashtra The number is the highest in the country. This information will soon be released as a report under the National Water Quality Monitoring Programme. In Maharashtra, the CPCB analysed 672 water bodies and found 566 of them, or 86 per cent, had ‘non-satisfactory’ water quality. While the central board’s analysis is based on data sent to it by the state board, the findings could vary because the CPCB uses different parameters to qualify pollution.

“A majority of the priority 1 (water bodies) were from the Mumbai Metropolitan Region and Pune, with examples such as the Mithi, Mula, Mula-Mutha, Wainganga, and Ulhas, along with river stretches in the Navi Mumbai industrial area,” said A Sudhakar, member secretary, CPCB. However, the MPCB had only categorised the Mithi river as priority 1. Mithi River is identified as one of the most polluted rivers in India.

Having said that, the CPCB said the total number of polluted river stretches across India has gone up. “We made a presentation before the NGT and state heads about a revised list of polluted river stretches, which have increased from 302 to 351 across India, with 53 in Maharashtra,” said Sudhakar.

The CPCB categorised polluted river stretches based on the amount of biochemical oxygen demand in the water body — or the level of oxygen that plants and animals need for survival, and the CPCB categorised stretches with the most pollution as priority 1. While the CPCB has recommended regular assessment of groundwater levels, industrial and domestic pollution, and the installation of sewage treatment plants to treat sewage before it is released into natural water bodies to check pollution, it also pointed out that Maharashtra is probably reporting the most number of polluted water bodies, as it has the highest number of water quality monitoring stations.

“There are 250 water quality monitoring stations across Maharashtra, and the MPCB also carries out more monthly monitoring compared to other states,” Sudhakar said. MPCB officials, have meanwhile said they have only received a draft of the CPCB’s fresh analysis, which was confusing. “We have asked them to clear these issues and send us a final report,” said an official from the MPCB, “Once we get this list, action will begin from our end.

This reassessment has been done based on new criteria for polluted river stretches. Thus, our follow-up study will factor in all these points.” But, said Sudhakar, the MPCB can act on its own, as the data was originally prepared by the state pollution control boards, not the CPCB.

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