Last month, a global study found that the sea near the Mumbai coast to be among the world’s most polluted. The database (Litterbase) compiled by Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Germany also found high quantity of plastic debris on the city’s all top beaches. Mumbai and its suburban and extended areas seacoasts and seawater are a big threat; Government has announced crores of money on these projects but is yet to come up with permanent mechanism.
You all might have read about stray dogs getting blue due to industrial waste in Navi Mumbai. They often wade into the river for food, therefore the waste may be dyeing their fur a bright shade of blue. Untreated industrial waste is being released into the Kasadi River in Navi Mumbai’s Taloja industrial area. A water quality test conducted at Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation found the waste treatment was inadequate. The levels of biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) — the concentration of oxygen required to sustain aquatic life — were 80 milligram a litre (mg/L). Levels of chloride, which is toxic, harms vegetation, aquatic life and wildlife, were also high.
Around 10km off Versova beach, tumbles out with mix of plastic fragments and discarded shopping bags, but very few fish exist there. Mumbai’s beaches are facing a garbage crisis with environmentalists estimating that 100 tonnes of trash lies dumped on the beaches at any given moment. A study by Mumbai-based ReefWatch Marine Conservation found plastic bags, food wrappers, discarded tyres and styrofoam choking the beaches.
From November 2015 to May 2016, the environmental group examined and counted trash at nine beaches in the city — Gorai, Aksa, Madh, Versova, Juhu, Dadar, Chimbai, Erangal and Girgaum Chowpatty – and one on the outskirts — Uttan Virgin. They found Juhu, Versova and Aksa to be the most polluted. Chimbai, Madh and Erangal, called the rocky beaches because of a lower proportion of sand cover, were the dirtiest. In a wooded patch close to the Bandra sea link tollbooth, you can see a constant gush of light brown water as a dull stench permeates the air.
The BMC’s seven sewage plants located between Colaba, Malad and Bhandup work round-the-clock throughout the year. Around 2,100 million litres a day (MLD) of wastewater sewage is released into the Arabian Sea and the creeks. The waste that arrives at the plants is pumped 3km into the sea. The BMC’s Malad sewage treatment plant, which handles the waste of 35 lakh people, is perhaps the worst of the seven in the city. The facility is limited to just preliminary treatment before the effluent is discharged directly in the Malad creek, which is surrounded by a large mangrove forest. They are slogging day in day out but still government is not finding some concert solution to address these recurring issues.
The BMC will now spend Rs 10,000 crore to set up seven new plants; these plants will include tertiary treatment. The treated water will be recycled and reused for industrial gardening and supplied to construction sites. These new sewage treatment facilities will be built according to Central Pollution Control Board.
Taxpayers in Mumbai have already spent over Rs 13,000 crore towards sanitation over the past decade. But the city has a lowly 140th rank to show for this massive spending. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had allocated Rs 8,839.5 crore for solid waste management in the last five years, of which Rs 683.56 crore was used for development work and at least over Rs 5,000 crore for sewage disposal. Despite this, the city ranked 140th in the country on the Swachh Bharat survey of clean cities.
In the year-long survey, researchers studied 476 first-tier cities with two parameters — how “minimal” open defecation was in the city, and how robust the municipalities were with the solid waste management system. Swachh Bharat Mission is the flagship sanitation programme of the BJP government, which aims to bridge gaps between sewerage and solid waste management and construct several million toilets in the urban centres.
In Mumbai, more than 40 per cent of the city is not connected to sewer lines even now. Navi Mumbai, Mumbai’s satellite city, though, saw itself ranked third in the survey. Of the 9,400 tonnes of municipal solid waste generated in Mumbai each day, the Deonar dumping ground, which has been staring at closure since 2011, receives 3,500 tonnes and Mulund dumping ground 2,200 tonnes. Neither of these dumping grounds currently in use have a waste-processing unit, and mostly unsegregated and untreated garbage is simply dumped there, and the garbage catching fire due to the gases formed are common. The recently opened Kanjurmarg dumping ground now processes 3,000 tonnes of waste.
The civic body has in its 2015-16 budget proposed to acquire 126 hectares at Taloja outside Mumbai to ease the burden on existing dumping grounds, but the BMC continues to wait for the land to be transferred by the state. To increase awareness on waste management alone, the civic body has made a provision of Rs 15 crore in the 2015-16 budgets. Still, waste segregation at source in the city is at a dismal 10-12 per cent.
Despite another solid waste management scheme — clean-up marshals are failing to make a visible impact in the city, the civic body is in the process of re-introducing these ‘marshals’ who can fine people for spitting and littering in public. Inspite of investing so much of tax payers money on Mumbai’s beach and city cleaning, the question remains as it is, “When will Mumbai become a clean city?
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