The Sabarmati river of Ahmedabad soon will have the dubious distinction of being the third most polluted river of the country and banks to one of the most awaited riverfront. The Sabarmati river basin is an agriculture intensive basin with high population density and industrial development. The project on the River for developing the river bank which would essentially be a hub for malls, restaurants, multiplexes and boating ventures is estimated over several crores. The National Water Quality Programme led by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) positions Sabarmati River (Ahmedabad), Khari River (Ahmedabad) and Amlakhadi River (Ankaleshwar) as the most polluted rivers in India. Surprisingly, all these rivers flow in Gujarat.
On the basis of pollution level in terms of Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD), CPCB identified the monitoring stations for all the rivers. These identified polluted locations at a continuous stretch of the river were termed ‘polluted river stretches.’ CPCB also classified the rivers with respect to pollution levels and assigned priority for action The BOD levels were observed at multiple monitoring stations for each river. At one of the monitoring station of Sabarmati River, BOD was measured as high as 103 mg/l. At Amlakhadi and Khari BOD levels were measured 46 mg/l and 19 mg/l respectively. Also, according to the Designated Best Use concept (out of several uses a water body is put to, the use which demands the highest quality of water) most of the rivers in Gujarat were rendered unfit for bathing. The rivers namely Sabarmati, Amlakhadi, Mahi and Tapi were all found to have BOD more than 3mg/l and total coliforms organism (Maximum Probable Number or MPN/100ml) more than 500 at all the monitoring stations.
Table 1 Polluted river stretches (BOD>30mg/l and exceeding 6mg/l on all occasions)
“The Major cause of pollution in these rivers is the number of industries operating alongside the river and discharging their effluent into it. The sewage from CETPs which are non functional in Ahmedabad is also let into the rivers” says Tushar Pancholi, Director of Paryavaraniya Vikas Kendra an NGO active in Gujarat. He further adds “that no study has been done on the potential impacts of riverfront on the immediate environment and river. Studies in the Western countries have shown that such construction may lead to changes in the river flow, sedimentation or river bank erosion due to construction activities.”
Mahesh Pandya, Director of NGO, Paryawaran Mitra alleges that there is no willingness on the part of State Government to address the situation. “At one of the monitoring station of Sabarmati River (Vautha) ‘zero’ Dissolved Oxygen was recorded. The Gujarat Pollution Control Board closed down a number of industries after a big hue and cry from the activists and locals but things have returned to square one” rues Pandya.