In the absence of a sewage treatment plant in Ponda, the high level of pollution due to the discharge of sewage in the Kapleshwari nullah is threatening to destroy several hectares of fields downstream. The nullah water has high concentration of total coliform and faecal coliform.
A report by the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB) reveals that the level of total coliform and faecal coliform in the nullah is very high at some places along its seven-kilometre route and could lead to a health hazard.
The total coliform count in Kapleshwari nullah reads at 11,000 MPN (most probable number). At Khariwada, the coliform count touches a whopping 35,000 MPN per 100 ml of water while at Ramnathi the count stands at 24,000 MPN and at Kavlem it is 13,000 MPN.
When contacted, the chairman of the GSPCB, Mr Jose Manuel Noronha said that the nullah is polluted with high levels of total coliform and faecal coliform mainly because of the untreated sewage from Ponda being discharged into it. He said the untreated sewage can lead to health concerns if no remedial steps are taken immediately. Besides, water from the nullah needs to be treated before it flows into the Zuari river. The nullah carries precipitation from the total catchment area of around 33 kilometres to the Zuari river and is an irrigation source to about 50 hectares of low-lying fields in Ponda taluka.
A source in the pollution control board, requesting anonymity, said that samples of water collected randomly along the seven-kilometre route of nullah have revealed high levels of suspended particles in the water besides high count of chemical oxygen demand and bio-chemical oxygen demand – the two parameters used to calculate chemical pollution in the water. The official said that while the quality of water is good upstream, the levels of pollution are relatively high midstream. The chemical oxygen demand (COD) count at Bethora junction is recorded at 40, biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) count is at 10 and dissolved oxygen (DO) has dropped to 1.1 from 3.3 upstream. Similarly in midstream, the COD count touches 60 while the BOD touches a whopping 34 which is nearly 10 times the permissible limits for a river while there is no dissolved oxygen. At Karaswada junction, the COD was recorded at 30 while the dissolved oxygen was recorded just at 2.9 and the ph levels of water dropping to 5.67.
The official said that the tests have also revealed that the pollution levels are very high especially in midstream where the dissolved oxygen is alarmingly below 4 g/l with varying ph levels. The official said that under specified levels, the ph level in water for irrigation and drinking purposes should be between 6.5 to 8.5.
The pollution in the nullah has resulted in the decline of the paddy yield and also become a health hazard for the farmers in Bandora and surrounding areas who use the water for irrigation purpose.
According to a farmer, Mr Durgendra Naik (53), “I have been carrying out farming for the last 40 years alongside my father by using water from the Kapleshwari nullah. However, over the last couple of years, the quality of water has deteriorated. The polluted water is taking a toll on the farmers’ health. We develop rashes each time we go to the fields,” he said while pointing out to boils on his legs. He also claimed that the poor quality of water is taking a toll on the production of paddy and that the paddy yield has decreased sharply with the stalks getting longer and the rice not getting formed properly. He said that the problem with the stalks getting longer is the plants tend to fall over, thus resulting in rotting of the paddy.
Another farmer, Mr Sitaram Gaude said that the situation is getting grim by the day as the farmers have no option but to use water from the nullah to irrigate their fields. However, the polluted water is already taking its toll on the soil. “High content of nutrients from untreated sewage discharged in the nullah is causing the crop to ‘burn’ as the plants cannot sustain such high levels of nutrients,” Mr Gaude added. He said that over 600 small and big farmers are affected by the pollution with many farmers already giving up farming due to health concerns. He said that it is almost impossible to get labour to work in the fields due to the health concerns and itching.
The local panch of Talaulem-Banadar, Mr Santosh Phadte said that the residents are facing a lot of problems due to pollution in the nullah and that they have echoed the issue several times in the gram sabhas. He said that the local MLA, Mr Ramkrishna Dhavalikar had promised to take up the matter after a survey of the area.
Another villager said that over the years the water has turned turbid with foul smell emanating from it, especially during low tides. He claimed that often fish killed due to the pollution in the nullah gets washed onto its banks. He also pointed out that locals have stopped consuming the fish fearing health concerns.
Some villagers attribute the pollution in the nullah to the disposal of untreated chemical effluents by industries based in the Bethora industrial estate, which, they said, gets further concentrated as the effluents come in contact with nearly 20 million litres per day (MLD) of sewage coming from the Ponda town everyday. The villagers also added that taking cover of the night, some tankers mostly from Ponda empty soil into the nullah at many places.
A highly-placed official in the water resources department, requesting anonymity, said that the nullah has become a dumping ground for tonnes of plastic waste generated in Ponda and surrounding areas resulting in chocking of the nullah at many places. He said that this leads to concentration of pollutants resulting in the water emitting foul smell. He said that besides the sewage and plastic, even medical waste including syringes, dressings finds its way into the nullah. He also did not rule out the possibility of industrial effluents finding its way into the nullah. [NT]