Patalganga River: Plight of the Pollution

Patalganga is among India’s 38 most polluted rivers, according to the Union Environment Ministry.

The Patalganga River originates in the Khandala portion of the Sahyadri scarp and it is formed by the tailrace water released from the Tata Hydro Power Station near Khopoli in Maharashtra, India.

Patalganga Circular Economy Solution Mumbai India Environmental NGO Earth5R

Map showing stretch of Patalganga River (mpcb.gov.in)

In its meandering north-westward reach of about 25 miles, it flows through Khopoli city and ultimately joins the Arabian Sea at the Dharamtar creek. Several streams on either side drain the land that is highly eroded and marked by remnant hill features (remains of a hill).

Patalganga river is an important source of drinking water and industrial raw water for the nearby villages having a population of 71,141 and industries, respectively.

The river Patalganga which was a blessing, has become a bane due to water pollution.

Patalganga sub-basin and its tributaries have been receiving enormous amounts of discharges from treated and untreated sewage generated from various Municipal Corporations, Councils, and accidental or indirect discharge of industrial effluents of around 35.44 MLD

The reasons for the pollution of the River are 

  • Urban Development 
  • Industrial wastewater 
  • Leachate from Solid Wastes
  • Agricultural Practices
  • Algal Growth
  • Siltation.
Patalganga Circular Economy Solution Earth5R Mumbai India Environmental NGO

Stretch of Patalganga (mpcb.gov.in)

THE PROBLEM

Patalganga river is leading in terms of pollution. It is one of the most polluted rivers of Maharashtra, the source of pollution being from Patalganga Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) which includes Rasayani (which means chemicals in Hindi/Marathi). Rasayani is nothing but a cluster of several chemical manufacturing and processing companies. It also includes India’s first Chemicals industry, Hindustan Organic Chemicals Ltd. (HOCL), which was established here in the 1960s.

HOCL utilizes raw materials in the form of Benzene, Liquefied Petroleum Gas, Methanol, Toluene, Naphtha, Hydrogen, Ammonia, Sulphur, Nitric acid, Poly Urethane Systems, Cumene and Acetic acid. Today, Rasayani consists of about 86 industries including significant industries such as:

  • Reliance Industries limited that manufactures nylon and rayon. 
  • Hindustan Insecticides Limited (HIL) a Govt. of India Enterprise that manufactures Insecticides, Herbicides, Fungicides etc .
  • Cipla is the 2nd largest pharmaceutical company that manufactures Pharmaceuticals, Animal Health Care Products, OTC, Bulk Drugs, Flavours and Fragrances.
  • Bakul Aromatics and Chemicals Limited dealing in exporting and manufacturing of speciality chemicals.
  • Alkyl Amines Chemicals Limited is a global supplier of amines and amine-based chemicals to the pharmaceutical, agrochemical, rubber chemical.
  • Lona Industries Limited, the products of this industry include Pigments and Dyes.

As water pollution continues to rise, the water supply schemes are in jeopardy and there is a possibility of health problems for the citizens. 

The combination of domestic sewage and industrial waste is responsible for the pollution, which is worsened by the population density of the region which is 2,358/km² as per 2011 census and the lack of sewage treatment facilities.

Patalganga Circular Economy Pollution Earth5R Mumbai India Environmental NGO

Patalganga river pollution (esakal.com)

The problem became more serious due to the Tata Hydro Electric Power Station at Khopoli, which blocks the river flow to generate electricity for Mumbai. 

In 2010, the flow in the river became slow to an extent where it was not even flushing away the effluents discharged by factories, turning it to an effluent drain.

WATER QUALITY OF PATALGANGA RIVER

Water quality of Patalganga River was observed at 14 locations and following results were found which shows that the river water is not suitable for drinking:

  • The Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) varies between minimum 2.6 to maximum 64 mg/l which exceeds Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) level of  2 mg/l. 
  • The Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD) value varies between minimum 10.0 to maximum 122.0 mg/l which is more than WHO permissible limit  of 10 mg/l. 
  • The Faecal and Total Coliform numbers respectively are in the range of 2-540 MPN/100ml and 8-920 MPN/100ml indicating significant contribution of untreated sewage.
  • The phosphate content varies from 0.95±0.07 to 5.8±0.67 mg/l, these values are higher than the standard permissible limit of 0.05 mg/l.
  • High ammonia (NH4-N) concentration (0.08 – 5.41 mg/l; Permissible limit is 0.10 mg/l (WHO)) was found which shows domestic and public toilet wastewater is discharged untreated directly into the river water. High concentration of ammonia in drinking water can cause restlessness, dullness, weakness etc.
  • Monitoring indicates that oil and grease concentrations ranged from nil to 19.6 mg/l (Permissible limit- 10 mg/l (BIS)). Even at low concentrations, oil and grease may be toxic to aquatic life, reduce dissolved oxygen, and alter the usability and aesthetics of a water body. 
Patalganga Circular Economy Mumbai India Environmental NGO Earth5R

Sampling locations at Patalganga River Stretch (semanticscholar.org)

INDUSTRIAL WASTES

It is alleged that Khopoli municipality is responsible for the pollution of Patalganga river.  

Locals from villages on the banks of Patalganga river complained about the water quality, diseases caused due to impure water, and poisoning caused after consuming fishes. 

The death of fishes in the river is frequent due to the large amount of chemical effluents.

Biodiversity of the river is under serious threat due to the harmful chemicals originating from:

  • Dyeing and textile industries
  • Fertilizer, pesticides, and insecticides from the farming activities
  • Alkyl amines industries

Industries have their effluents released after the Chawne dam (Bandhara, a small level built for water supply, was used until recently before construction of Hetawane dam).

Flooding during the rainy season results in the flushing of agricultural lands downstream with harmful chemicals which makes land unsuitable for cultivation. This also results in the crops being burnt due to highly acidic pH of the water. 

SEWAGE WASTES

Millions of liters of sewage are being discharged directly into the river from drains due to delay in the city’s underground sewerage scheme

The Society for Clean Environment, a Mumbai-based NGO, conducted a survey of the area and estimated that more than 15 million litres of highly polluted effluents are discharged into the river everyday.

CURRENT CONDITION

According to Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB), the current status of polluted river stretch of Patalganga River (Jan – Dec 2018) is highly polluted and falls under Priority-IV of polluted river stretch. (Priority – IV: Monitoring locations having Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) between 6-10 mg/l; Standard to be achieved is 3 mg/l).  

Sewage Generated near Patalganga River:

  • Total Sewage generation is 5.76 MLD (millions of liters per day) and the Total Sewage Treatment done is nil.
  • Presently, no Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) is provided but work on Detailed Project Report (DPR) preparation is in progress.
  • Total water consumption is around 63.44 MLD and total industrial effluent generation is 35.44 MLD.
  • There is only one Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP) in Patalganga with 15 MLD capacity.
Patalganga River Circular Economy Solution Earth5R Mumbai India Environmental NGO

People washing clothes near Patalganga River (Credit: Joe Zachs, Flickr)

Status of Waste Management in Raigad District:

Sr. No.Particular Remarks
1.Total Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Generation Total generation of MSW (Khopoli Municipal Area) – 28 MT/day.
2.Existing MSW treatment and disposal facilities06 MT/day waste is processed through Bio Methanation
3.Bio-medical waste ManagementTotal generation: 180 kg/day Total collection and treatment: 180 kg/day
4.E-Waste managementE-waste generated by industries is sent to MPCB authorized E-waste reprocessor.

INITIATIVES

BY THE ADMINISTRATION AND LOCAL BODY

When the river started smelling, the locals became hostile and complained to the Pollution Control Board and the local administration. Inspection tours were carried out and water samples were collected. After which, no steps were taken by the authorities and the subject was cleared with temporary promises. 

Patalganga River Circular Economy Earth5R Mumbai India Environmental NGO

Patalganga River Pollution (esakal.com)

On January 23, 2019, the 3rd Meeting of River Rejuvenation Committee (RRC) reviewed and finalized draft action plans of polluted river stretches prepared by the MPCB. RRC also decided to call the local bodies and review the timelines proposed in action plans from time to time. 

ACTION PLAN:

As per National Green Tribunal (NGT) orders during 2018, an action plan covering aspects like utilization of sewage, groundwater recharge or rain water harvesting,  setting up of biodiversity parks , plantation on both sides of river,  etc. was proposed. 

On the basis of this, RRC requested the Water Resource Department, Government of Maharashtra (GoM) to provide:

  • Sewage treatment Plant (STP) for treatment of sewage generation from city along the river to avoid contamination of Patalganga River
  • Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) treatment Facility i.e. Effective operation, collection & treatment of MSW in the villages/towns located on the bank of river to avoid contamination of river
  • In-Situ drain Clean-up Treatment i.e. treatment of the sewage in the drains at the source,  to stop untreated sewage entering into the River. 

All this responsibility is given to Khopoli and Khalapur Municipal Council, Grampanchayat and Zilha Parishad which was supposed to take a duration of approximately 2 years for its implementation to improve Water Quality for Patalganga River. 

ADMINISTRATION AND THEIR ACTION

Over the years the people have raised their voices for the river and the community.

  • Since 1972, local residents have been protesting against the administration and the industry asking for an improvement in the condition of the river.
  • In 1987 the villagers complained that due to flushing of chemical residue into the river, the water had become acidic and it burnt crops in the field.
  • The state administration and the pollution control board (PCB) ignored the allegation until the Mumbai zonal laboratory of the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) finally exposed the plight of the river by examining the sample of water supplied from the Chauna water supply scheme. It was observed that the water required proper disinfection and remarked that the water was unfit for drinking.
  • In 1988, the Bombay Environmental Action Group (BEAG) filed a public interest petition (Bombay Environment Action Group V/s. Union of India).
  • The court set up an expert committee to ascertain the truth and said that the MPCB needed to be sharp-eyed in monitoring the industrial units. The case is still going on in the high court since 1989.

Though the MPCB claims that all the industrial units in the area are pollution free, the river still looks ‘faint green‘ in colour. The MPCB continues to ignore the villagers’ protest which safeguards the industrialists.

BY THE PEOPLE

The protest and demand for better maintenance of the river didn’t stop there:

  • On November 16, 2017,  Dharmaraj Jadhav, a social activist, demanded a meeting on Patalganga River Pollution. Regarding this demand, Chairman MLA Manohar Bhoir ordered the Pollution Control Board officials to hold a meeting with the locals at the MIDC office in Patalganga within fortnight to discuss the pollution problem but no such meeting was held then.
  • These initiatives didn’t give good results because the state administration denied any pollution in the area and even defended the industrial units.
  • The lack of information and the officials’ hesitation in providing the available information are the major hurdles that are being faced by the locals while fighting pollution in the river.
PROPOSED SOLUTION

BY ADMINISTRATION

The main causes of deterioration in water quality of Patalganga River is due to high interference of anthropogenic activities, lack of proper sanitation, and industrial and domestic wastewater inflow. 

Improving the water quality in the Patalganga River is possible, but requires interventions in domestic, municipal and industrial sectors. River pollution can be controlled by considering multiple options such as:

  • Since there is no sewage treatment plant in the municipal area falling along the stretch of Patalganga River. Installation of STP for treatment of sewage considering future population should be done and reusing the treated water could reduce overall water consumption.  
  • Construct an underground sewer line for the entire council area and provide the same in the new developing area. 
  • Identifying eco-friendly treatment technologies for in-situ i.e. on site river water clean-up and development of models for management of river water for sustainable utilization.
  • Waste segregation at source, localized recycling and localized/community level vermicomposting.
  • For agricultural runoff, care should be taken to restrict the use of banned chemical pesticides and necessary actions should be taken to control the use of chemicals in the fields. Awareness should be created among the farmers on the use of chemicals in the fields. 
  • All domestic sewage should be properly treated and its entry into river water should be prevented. The treatment can be carried out by root zone technology, underground drainage system, phytoremediation techniques which is a process of using green plants or trees to clean water and soil by removing, stabilizing, destroying, or transferring contaminants.
  • Installation of online monitoring system for water quality & GIS (Geographic Information System) platform for creating & maintaining database of river pollution. 
  • Mass awareness about circular economy and public participation in the river cleaning programme.

BY THE LOCALS

  1. Segregating the domestic waste as wet and dry to help the MSW management so that river pollution due to solid waste will reduce.
  2. By extension, following a Circular Economy by reducing and recycling the segregated wastes will provide a helping hand in reducing the river pollution.
  3. Washing clothes near the river bank and other domestic activities need to be stopped completely.
  4. Public participation in river cleaning programs along with NGOs and also engage in creating community awareness.
  5. Industrialists in Patalganga MIDC also need to aid the locals in maintaining a circular economy and meet all the required standards to reduce pollution.   

EARTH5R MODEL:

  • Earth5R is involved in creating awareness while encouraging public participation by organizing drives and workshops for social and environmental issues.
  • The aim is to educate people and convey the importance of Circular Economy. The fundamental principle of the Circular Economy is not manufacturing, use, and disposal but rather reduce, reuse, and recycle, which is the basis for action-based solutions initiated by Earth5R for sustainability.
  • Earth5R, along with students and citizens have conducted regular cleanups. The team has so far successfully recycled more than 1 ton of plastics and brought it back into the circular economy, rather than allowing it to fill up a landfill.
  • Earth5R works with the ideology that simply picking up waste and dumping it elsewhere is not a sustainable solution. Instead, the team recycles, upcycles, and returns it to the circular economy.

“A specific management plan involving all stakeholders will help improve and maintain the river water quality.”

THE EARTH5R RIVER RESTORATION APPROACH: CIRCULAR ECONOMY BASED SOLUTIONS

Volunteers Pune Mula Mutha River Cleanup Mumbai India Environmental NGO Earth5R

An initiative taken by Earth5R towards cleanliness (Earth5R)

  • Creating a project that balances the social, environmental, and economic interests of a community is important to achieve sustainability. When a project is planned in consideration of all these aspects, it will create a long-lasting program that benefits everyone. 
  • By establishing circular economy based programs that have active collaborations with local stakeholders such as city administrations, local community, universities and educational agencies, private sector companies, and NGOs / NPOs, local problems like bad waste management can be turned into opportunities for the local community. 
  • Program efforts to clean Patalganga River should be focusing on integrating all society components that include people as much as technology and nature and creating local job opportunities thereby creating stronger community ownership which will create a lasting change. 

Reach out to Earth5R to know more about solving environmental issues by creating a circular economy based sustainability projects.

ABOUT EARTH5R

Earth5R is an environmental organization from India with its head office at Mumbai. It works with the NGO sector, Companies and helps them conduct environmental corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs across India. Earth5R specializes in circular economy based projects. Earth5R also offers short term and long term environmental courses.

Earth5R’s Global Sustainability Hub is a cross-sector and cross-country collaboration in pursuit of UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is an excellent opportunity for governments and the private sector to engage with communities, use Sustainability-based models to drive economic changes and create social and environmental impact.

Reported by Prajakta Pazare, edited by Riya Dani

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