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Threats to health and environment

Treatment of sewage is a dire necessity to maintain health of water bodies and clean environment
Hammid Ah mad Wani
Srinagar | Posted : Dec 8 2017 1:39AM | Updated: Dec 7 2017 11:17PM
Threats to health and environment
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The scenario of Sewage disposal in J&K State is present a very dismal picture less than 15% of the waste-waters generated are treated while as about 85% sewage are currently pumped/drained into water bodies without being treated. Massive urbanization of towns and cities has manifold demand, stressing urban local bodies and UEED to cope up with demands of existing system. In our State still at present wastewater is not regarded as a high priority public service because health aspects of managing waste waters seem to have not been well understood till date. Wastewater pumps without any treatment before its disposal have been /are still installed amid fanfare with little thought and respect to public health and environmental laws. The linkage of good wastewater management system to the protection of public health, pollution of water bodies and environmental safeguard is the vital justification for State machineries to wake up and respond to this unprecedented problem. Sewage which is referred to untreated excrement from human being and other animals until recently was not creating much problem to aquatic resources. Now a day’s coupled with rapid urbanization and development is posing multitude problems to water resources. It has also increased need for water to meet the domestic requirements and the impact of the resultant sewage discharge on the receiving waters cumulatively deteriorate the quality of waters and environment. There is also an urgent need to formulate policy to protect the water bodies including rivers, wetlands, lakes and biodiversity for the sake of public health. Lakes, rivers, wetlands and ponds being vital in recharging of ground water supplies and controlling urban temperature play a key role in preventing urban flooding. If proper and timely attention is not paid, the State of Jammu and Kashmir will face large scale environmental degradation.

In the village this problem is not much common because it gets absorbed by the soil itself. Many experts claim that three fourth of the surface water resources are polluted and 80 % of the pollution is created by sewage alone. The contribution of industrial effluents and agriculture waste in water pollution is only 20%. Since J&K State has low level of industrialization, as such contribution of domestic sewage in pollution is alarmingly high. In our state most of the cities and towns baring few areas of Srinagar and Jammu, do not have any sewerage treatment system. Even in areas where it has been provided, it is not fully functional. Under the circumstances it is being pumped without treatment directly into water bodies, or being collected in some low-lying area or flows on streets /roads.

Jammu and Kashmir state is lagging behind in the wastewater/sewage treatment, in the process it not only endangering the scarce water resource, polluting the water bodies ,threatening aquatic life and human health but is also overwrought to incur subsequently heavy expenditures to maintain the natural assets and health affected by the wastewaters. After water supply, wastewater is next most important urban service catered to our urban areas. Water is available though in plenty in the state but our reckless decision making and irrational planning has created a situation where state is confronted with scarcity of water. In case appropriate policy measures and steps are not taken situation is bound to worsen on account of increased pollution and rising demand for water. In most of the ULB’S of the state, this service is normally not viewed in true perspective, as one of the essentials of city development but as service only to get rid of unwanted wastes in isolation without any consideration to quality of environment. Same approach is being adopted by our policy and decision makers which need to be changed to build a positive image for the waste water treatment and comprehensive urban development. This is resulting into extension of sewers to many areas from sub-lateral to laterals, sub-mains to trunk sewers without any treatment facility culminating with a dead end or directly being pumped /drained into water bodies. The State Pollution Control Board, Urban Local Bodies, Municipal Corporations, Irrigation and Flood Control, and Department of Environment and Ecology despite awareness of health hazards and environmental problems, have equally to share the responsibility for the state of affairs of water bodies due to disposal of untreated waste waters. 

Jammu and Kashmir State in 2015 had wastewater generation of about 1506 MLD both in rural and urban areas. It was anticipated to go up to 1163 MLD in 2016 and 2652 MLD in 2041.Out of the total wastewaters about 500 MLD is generated in cities and towns of the State including both gray and black waters. Comparing wastewaters generation with capacity of treatment plants and functional capacity, there appears a gross mismatch which can be attributed as main cause for pollution and declining quality of life .It is a well known fact that all our rural areas san facility for wastewater treatment on the one hand and in aggregate all the urban areas have an installed capacity 80.40 MLD consisting 31.1 MLD along Dal lake periphery,17.08 MLD Bari Numbal, 27 MLD Bagwati Nagar (Jammu), 4 MLD at Mehandi Kadal (Anantnag). Out of this 40 MLD is non functional which leaves about 40.8 MLD treatment facility for 500 MLD domestic wastewaters generated in the cities and towns. In addition about 200 MLD of non residential sewage is generated on account of commercial, tourism, industrial and other activities. As most of the urban areas are located along/adjacent to water bodies, be it rivers, marshes, lakes or ponds, wastewater is pumped/ entering in raw form, adding high doze of pollution. It is clearly a testimony that despite growing awareness about preservation water bodies and water resources, our state seems unmindful of this growing menace. In Srinagar city alone there are about 100 pumping station pumping both gray and black waters in the adjacent water bodies. The condition of Doodhganga is worst; it has virtually turned it into a slush drain with colour of waters purely black. Same is the case with Khushal sar ,Gill sar ,Narkara wetland, Anchar lake, Bab Demb lagoon and other water bodies. All State Department which are involved directly or indirectly in wastewater treatment and monitoring are responsible for violation J&K Water Resource Management Act-2010, and Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 0f 1974.The National Urban Sanitation Policy-2008 and National Water Policy- 2012 which emphasize reuse of water, are also not implemented is a visible sign for careless approach adopted for burning and growing issue of great concern. 

Recent episode of dead fish emerging on the surface of river Jhelum is not a singular incidence of rising levels pollution and threat to aquatic life in water bodies. Last year during the same time huge quantity of dead fish or in dying stage emerged in Doodhganga river from Old Channpora to Barazulla and onwards. There is now no question of drinking or using its waters for domestic purpose, as was a practice recent past in the adjacent areas of these water bodies. Thus, it is enough confirmation about state of declining health of our water bodies on account of disposal of raw sewage.

In Srinagar particularly where the problem of dead fish emerging on the surface of the water has been experienced, problem of waste water management has reached glaringly very sensitive level. Srinagar population is estimate to be 18 lakhs in 2015 as per the water supplied to the citizens by PHEE Department and rate of waste water generation is about 200 MLD with an additional generation of more than 50 MLD from service population including defense, commercial establishments and other related activities.

In our cities /towns raw sewage is at present as such a significant public health hazard because humans and other animals infected with pathogens, disease causing bacteria viruses and other parasitic organisms, generally discharge large number of these organisms or their eggs in their fecal matter. These may include typhoid, paratyphoid, diarrheal disease and cholera. When discharged in the environment these parasites organisms often infect other individuals and cause the spread of diseases. These organisms are also among the most important biotic factors holding natural population in check. The aquatic ecosystems are also affected because raw sewage when discharged into the surface waterways, deplete dissolved oxygen content of water as a result animals suffocate and die .Water holds only minute amount of dissolved oxygen as compared to the atmosphere. The entry of more oxygen from the atmosphere or by photosynthesis is a slow process, therefore, loading and aquatic system with too much organic matter from sewage or other sources cause an excessive proliferation of decomposers. These organism consume oxygen faster than it enters the system, thus depleting the oxygen supply. Another environmental problem resulting from the discharge of sewage into our waterways is algal blooms that makes the water unfit for consumption.

The thrust for the development and speedy urbanization and its convergence is likely to continue in the State. In the process problems of wastewater management would tantalizingly aggravate. Whatever efforts State will make, be it endeavor to introduce much hyped inland water transport, improved navigation, boosting of river /heritage tourism, conservation of water bodies like Wular lake, Anchar, Babademb, Khshal sars, Gillsar ,Hoker sar and host of rivers would be miserably defeated unless and until vexing problems of wastewaters is addressed. No body is going to travel through these water bodies ,navigate them, and get attracted as tourist till wastewater is pumped and drained into them in raw form. 


Hammid Ahmad Wani is Former Chief Town Planner, Jammu Development Authority