Freshwater fails to cleanse river for Chhath

New Delhi: The Yamuna may cleanse your sins but a dip or even a knee-deep wade in it downstream of Wazirabad is bound to bring you in contact with a lot of dissolved excrement–faecal coliform in sanitised scientist-speak–besides a cocktail of toxic effluents.While the white foam of industrial discharge and its clinging stench prove the water is terribly polluted, Delhi Pollution Control Committee’s (DPCC) monthly monitoring reports confirm that the Yamuna, through most of its Delhi journey , is just a drain with no fresh water in it.

In September, for instance, the river’s biological oxygen demand (BOD) near Najafgarh drain was 54mgl, 18 times the permissible limit of 3mgl. On Tuesday , when thousands did Chhath Puja in the river, the BOD at ITO and Kalindi Kunj ghats was mea sured at 31mgl and 50mgl, respectively .

Other studies have shown very high levels of heavy metals and cancer-causing chemicals in the river. A study by Toxics Link in 2014, for instance, found the concentrations of lead, chromium, arsenic and mercury to be several times the safe standards and, in some places, several hundred times the bathing water quality standard set by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). Chromium was the most prevalent heavy metal with a maximum concentration of 797 parts per million when the standard is only 0.5ppm. Lead was present at 55.7ppm as against the standard of 0.1ppm. CPCB had earlier found lindane, an insecticide, in Yamuna samples.

Although freshwater was released in the river for Chhath, activists didn’t find any change in the water quality on Tuesday . “It was stink ing, as always. The water hyacinths that came flowing from upstream were proof that some water was released, but it didn’t make any difference.Yamuna water is highly con taminated with pesticides and heavy metals, and also very dangerous bacteria from coli form,“ said Manoj Misra of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyan.chhath puja

Doctors said contact with untreated Yamuna water could cause serious ailments.“There’s a high risk of fungal and bacterial skin infections.It is best to wash your skin with clean water as soon as you step out of the Yamuna.Drinking Yamuna water could cause typhoid and other bacterial infections,“ said Dr K K Agarwal, secretary general of Indian Medical Association (IMA).

Experts say an “environmental flow“–the minimum water needed for the river to perform its ecological functions–is necessary to restore the Yamuna’s health. However, almost all of its freshwater flow is diverted at Hathnikund Barrage in Haryana to meet the drinking water and irrigation needs of five states. What is left is sewage and industrial effluents, most of them untreated.

Source: TOI 18 Nov’2015