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Pollution in the Mahanadi: Urban Sewage, Industrial Effluents and Biomedical Waste

The discharge of municipal sewage, industrial effluents and biomedical waste into the Mahanadi has raised concerns about environmental sustainability and also posed a serious threat to the health of people living on the banks. This article critically examines the river pollution caused by the spiralling urbanisation and industrialisation along with dumping of waste by many medical facilities. There is an urgent need to address this enormous challenge which is a direct outcome of inefficient planning and management.

Pollution in the Mahanadi

NOTESEconomic & Political Weekly EPW may 17, 200889Cuttack have been downgraded to grade D/E and that of Paradeep to below grade E because of additional pollution indi-cators – EC, SAR,and chloride coming from industrial effluents.1 2 OpenSewage A population currently at 1.62 lakh (1.54 lakh in 2001 Census), and prospectively at 4.35 lakh in 2011 [Orissa Water Supply and Sewerage Board 2007] Sambalpur town saw a decadal growth of 66 per cent in 1971, 70.5 per cent in 1981, slowing down to around 19 per cent in 1991 and 35 per cent in 2001. Inward migration for employ-ment in industries and ancillary establish-ments has resulted in growing slums. Around 60 per cent of the present popula-tion lives in 101 slums within the 33.6 sq km municipality area.Sambalpur town’s western flank dis-charges the entire town’s untreated sewage from 12 outfalls within a 5 km stretch directly into the Mahanadi. In summer when the Hirakud dam discharges next to nothing, the river water with the sewage stagnates in patches between overgrown weeds and riverbed rocks. This is the only bathing and clothes washing option avail-able to thousands of people living by the river including pilgrims to the riverside shrine of Samalai. The open sewage system of Sambalpur Municipal Corporation (SMC) consists of seven minor drains and three major nullah or natural watercourses which meander 10 to 22 kms each, inside the town, col-lecting sewage. The major sewage outfall is through one of these – the Dhobijore. In 1999 it dumped 129.6 kilolitres per day (KLD) of sewage into the river. Water QualityA remarkable and sudden deterioration in water quality just after the sewage outfall istelling. While Sambalpur upstream shows lowBOD of 1.1 mg/l; just 5 km downstream at Dhobijore, it deteriorates to 3.1 mg/l. SimilarlyTC is 2,650MPN/100ml upstream but deteriorates nearly 14 times to 36,742 MPN/100ml downstream. The pressure of rising population density on water pollu-tion levels too is growing. In 2000, annual average TC downstream was 15,478 MPN/100ml; six years later, in 2006 ithad more than doubled to 36,742MPN/100ml. TheOSPCB classifies the water quality of Sambalpur downstream (also public water supply intake point) as class Dand E. Dhobijore being the lowest point in the topography hereabouts, river water is deepest here. Barely 15 ft from the sewage outfall is the public water supply intake point. The inadequate piped water sup-plied to the municipal area is supplement-ed by 674 stand posts and 446 hand pumps. Sambalpur area has a granite basement; at some points the water table remains high unable to percolate because of the rock base. These points are pene-trated for tube and dug-wells and also be-come the pathways for sewage contamina-tion of groundwater since water remains barely 10 feet below the surface. The 5 km long main discharge drain, which runs at the inner foot of the ring-road to transport the sewage in the final leg to the outfalls, has been long since in-operative and overgrown with shrubs. Open drains and dug-outs that fed this arterial drain from colonies are stagnat-ing, alive with worms and leeches, over-flowing into homes and even temples, pol-luting groundwater. Colitis, gastro-enteri-tis (transmitted primarily through human faeces) and viral hepatitis are the result, but malaria takes the heaviest toll.Added to the raw sewage, “open defeca-tion is a curse in Sambalpur town”, admits Sachinanda Satpathy, assistant engineer with theSMC. The existing “free-use” toilets lie unused. In a town with literacy levels of 76.28 per cent this acute lack of sanitation sense and further inability of authorities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to inculcate awareness is surprising. At the receiving end of public brickbats, theUIDSSMT has at last come to the rescue of the SMC. Under the scheme the existing dysfunctional ring road drain will be re-designed to cover 4,600 metres and 24 10-seater public toilets will be built, together costing Rs 5.93 crore. It is a paradox that while existing free toilets have no takers, the UIDSSMT proposal visualises a daily user fee revenue of Rs 15,000 from the toi-let utilities, expecting that many users. 3 Cuttack: A City of DrainsMore than a 1,000 years old, the erstwhile capital of Orissa, Cuttack, is virtually tot-tering over its drains, particularly during the three months of monsoon when many areas remain knee deep in water and the drains invade kitchens and bedrooms.Until recently, Cuttack’s faecal disposal was through manual scavenging. Hence its 20-year-old sewage networking of just 19 kms covers only 10 per cent of the city. Urban growth in Cuttack expanded rapidly in the 1960s after development of the Paradeep port and construction of connecting flyover bridges. Two planned housing settlements with popu-lations of 10,000 and 1.5 lakh came up on the banks of Mahanadi and on the western tip of the Mahanadi-Kathajodi rivers bifurcation. While the latter has a 4.5 million litres per day (MLD) STP the former drains its sewage directly into Mahanadi.In most areas, household sewage is flushed or washed into the open roadside drains. The 192.5 sq km Cuttack Municipality Corporation (CMC) area has a total of 1,678 kms of drains, which lead to the two main open storm water drains, together 22 kms long. An addi-tional 29 kms of branch storm water channels complete the currently availa-ble drainage (and sewage) infrastructure in the city. Broadly speaking, domestic waste water, solid waste and sewage have a single disposal channel. Clogged drains, year round overflow into alleys and critical water logging in monsoons are the result. The present daily sewage flow is 120 litre per capita day (lpcd-calculated at 80 per cent of water supply) from a city population of 5.35 lakh (Census 2001); sewage generation is projected at 88.54mld in 2011 with the population increasing to 6.51 lakh, 105.59 mld in 2021 with population at 7.93 lakh and 160 mld in 2041 with population at 12.46 lakh. Ponds and low areas which could moderate storm water flow are now all built up.In 2001 the Pollution Abatement Scheme (PAS) for Mahanadi under the National River Conservation Programme (NRCP) was implemented in Cuttack. Besides the Mahanadi and Brahmani, 27 other polluted rivers running through 149 towns in 16 states also came under this scheme. The total approved cost of the
NOTESmay 17, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly90programme was Rs 3,080 crore and slated to be completed by December 2005.Delays and the ChokingIn Cuttack the PAS sought to reduce pollution from city domestic wastes and effluents from the Jagatpur industrial area that drains into Mahanadi, its distri-butory Kathajodi and the Taladanda canal, which is the main irrigation source and bathing ghat for villages along its length. After furores in the state legislative as-sembly over the delay, in December 2006, the implementing agency, Orissa Water Supply and Sewerage Board of the depart-ment of urban development, the govern-ment of Orissa completed and handed over to the CMC, five sewage interception and diversion points. These are sewage collection points from which the waste is pumped out into the two main storm water drains which then carry it to the 33 mld sewage treatment plant (STP) at Mata-gajpur, located on the Kathajodi river bank. The STP was handed over in Janu-ary 2007; CMC floated bids to operate and maintain theSTP in September 2007, but till date a technically suitable agent has not been decided upon. The STP idles while the rivers choke with the city’s sewage characterised byBOD 160 mg/l; COD250 mg/l; suspended solids 158 mg/l and coliform count of 1,00,00,000 MPN/100ml, (discharges are assumed to be diluted 10 times in water bodies). With 30 low cost public toilets OWSSB’s total bill was Rs 6.84 crore.After two years time over-run, work under theNRCP is not yet complete. Ac-cording to member secretary,OWSSB, Dilip Kumar Padhi:The lack of gradient in Cuttack is our ma-jor obstacle to delivering on time. In some places we had to dig to a depth of 23 feet to get the required gravity flow. The high water table throws up water even at 8 ft depth at places which has to be pumped out simulta-neously for work to continue; all this renders progress slow. The Orissa government made a special request to include Cuttack city under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Re-newal Mission (JNNURM) which originally included only Bhubaneswar and Puri. The project scope under JNNURM in Cuttack city includes a 242 km sewage network, 10pumping, nine lifting and six main pumping stations, three more STPs with a total of 52.18 mld at a cost of Rs 345.03 crore (including cost of 51.93 hectares of land forSTPs and pumping stations). After the projected completion in 2012, just a year’s cost for operation and mainte-nance of the above is estimated at a huge Rs 7.45 crore. The present municipal sewage user fee of Rs 20 a month would thereafter see a large hike to render this infrastructure viable.However, one basic lacunae in planning however remains – while officially Cut-tack city’s population is expected to reach 6.51 lakh in 2011, unofficial, reports say that, it is already nudging seven lakh.4 IndustrialPollution Based on pollution potential the ministry of environment and forests,GoI have colour categorised industries as red, orange and green. Orissa has 65 per cent of red or potentially most polluting indus-tries, most of them engaged in primary manufacturing; 20 per cent of orange and 15 per cent of green. These are again clas-sified as grossly polluting, based on their water polluting load, i e, if it exceedsBOD count of 100 kg/day or if its effluent con-tains hazardous chemicals. Orissa has 18 such industries.There are 15 large industries in the Mahanadi basin, aluminium and thermal power plants at Hirakud, charge chrome and power plant at Chowdwar, paper in-dustry in Jagatpur and two fertiliser plants in Paradeep which discharge effluent into Mahanadi directly. The total industrial effluent released into the Mahanadi at Sambalpur, Cuttack and Paradeep from the larger units are 736 KLD, 2,780 KLD and 5,280 KLD respectively.Several medium and small industries on the Mahanadi basin discharge 1,00,000 m3 of waste water every day; 12 coal mines discharge 14,000 m3 mine water daily during non-monsoon months. Agricultur-al return waters amount to 1,564 million m3 but since fertiliser and pesticide use in Orissa is not high; the pollution from agri-cultural sources is not alarming. There are a number of other proposed industries to come up on this river basin.The entire amount of industrial waste-water however does not go into the river system. Some of it is diverted to marshes and other natural detention basins. In contrast to the almost complete absence of infrastructure to treat domestic sewage, industries (particularly the large ones who, over the last two to three years, are expanding production capacity), have simultaneously endeavoured through advanced technologies and substantial investment to maximise reuse of waste- water and also to improve characteristics of discharged effluent. One of the drivers of this positive change is the National Policy for Abate-ment of Pollution, 1992, and the Charter on Corporate Responsibility for Environ-mental Protection (CREP), 2003. Both seek pollution control through various measures including waste minimisation, in-plant process control and adoption of clean and feasible technologies rather than end-pipe treatment. The other triggers for change is the partnership through technology and investment with foreign companies; an increasing global scrutiny and pressure on national gov-ernments to address climate change issues; and last but not the least a fairly proactive media and judiciary. Though declining, instances of and the potential for industrial water pollution under the existing infrastructural still remains. It may however be mentioned thatin almost all the industries visited forthisstudy and generally, in Orissa, air Open Review Several international journals are moving away from closed "Peer Review" of research papers, towards an "Open Review" process. In open reviews anyone can comment on a paper submitted for publica-tion.This will increase transparency in reviews as well as enhance participation and involvement of the research community. EPW occasionally posts a submission on its web site and invites comments. Visitors to the EPW web site and readers of the journal are encouraged to offer detailed comments. EPW will discuss the comments with the author and a revised version will be processed for publication.Please visit the Open Review section on our web site ( to read and comment on the paper currently submitted for Open Review.

Fluorides that accumulate in aquatic organisms can work their way into the water table. Too much fluorine in water can lead to dental fluorosis during critical tooth development period in children less than six years of age and, on a longer-term basis, to osteoporosis.

increasingly more waste water is being reused.

Indian Farmer’s Fertilisers Cooperative

5,280 KLD

Their total industrial pollution load on Mahanadi is BOD at 15 kg/d, COD at 35kg/d and oil and grease at 7.5 kg/d. The town’s untreated domestic sewage too drains into the creek.

The water quality at Paradeep, according to OSPCB does not qualify even for class E due to several parameters like TC (annual average in 2006 was 17,386 MPN/100ml); EC (2,412 microsiemen/cm in winter 2006; tolerance limit for class E water is 2,250); SAR (31.06 in April 2006; sodium absorption ratio – indicates the concentration of sodium; tolerance limit for class E water is 26); Chloride (3,497 mg/l in April 2006; industrial effluents may carry chloride; at 250 mg/l gives salty taste, 600 mg/l is the tolerance limits for class E water; at very high concentration can be toxic to crops), TKN (39.8 mg/l in April 2006; indicates higher level of ammonia, 0.2 to 2.0 mg/l can be lethal to some variety of fish).

NOTESmay 17, 2008 EPW Economic & Political Weekly92developed countries have found a safe solution. Being a coastal town, the area sees heavy and prolonged rainfall. The rain-water carries with it gypsum acid leaks and overflows, run-off from industry’s buildings and grounds into the factories’ storm water drains which discharges into Atharbanki creek and then into the Mahanadi. 7 Need for Communication One reason why industries are facing such stiff resistance in Orissa and elsewhere today is because far decades little sincere effort was made to involve citizenry in (environmental) information sharing or making its access easy, leave alone decision-making. For instance, a senior member of theOSPCB states how, at an environmental impact assessment public hearing before land acquisition for an industry he himself failed to understand the translated contents (into the regional language) of the environ-ment impact document. These mandatory public hearing are often used as forums for advocacy on behalf of industries – painting alluring pictures of development and employment; communities use them to demand jobs and land compensation.According to a Lady Sarpanch, Smitara-ni Swain, 2 kms as the crow flies from the IFFCO plant site is its adopted village Nuagada. As part of itsCSR it is promoting self-help groups by giving away goats and agricultural equipments, but neither the panchayat nor the sarpanch were ever consulted. In Sandhakoda, a large fishing community living cheek by jowl to the PPL’s compound wall, there is a deeper sense of exclusion. Twice, only through rumours of gas leaks, they evacuated without any of-ficial communication. The high compound wall figuratively denotes a wall of non-communication, even though pollution impacts, small or catastrophic are borne directly by these communities.The issue of environmental compliance has become an arbitrary business between the regulator and the regulated, leading to corruption and increased judicial and citizens’ activism to protect situations from breakdowns. Sit-ins, demonstrations and peaceful rallies are commonly resor-ted to by communities. In recent times, two case studies which succeeded in bringing significant positive change in Orissa can be noted. 8 AccountabilityIn 2002, project Swarajya, a Cuttack based NGO filed a public interest litigation (PIL) against OCFL for polluting against norms and made a party to the violation the secre-taries, departments of forest and environ-ment and fisheries and animal develop-ment, government of Orissa, the union of India and the chairman, OSPCB for failing to ensure compliance to norms of OCFL. Ever since OCFL, a Rs 2,000 crore fertiliser plant, producing 2 million tonnes per annum of di ammonia phosphate, one of the largest producers in India which started production in April 1999, faced a host of complaints and agitation from local people over water and air pollution.Despite three major accidents, a number of ammonia gas leaks and one that de-stroyed 3,500 hectares of ripening paddy, and a few Orissa State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) raps, the industry carried on with seeming impunity. Probably it may have continued for some years. The PIL resulted in heated debates in the state SAMEEKSHA TRUST BOOKSInclusive GrowthK N Raj on Economic DevelopmentEssays from The Economic Weekly and Economic & Political WeeklyEdited by ASHOKA MODYThe essays in the book reflect Professor K N Raj’s abiding interest in economic growth as a fundamental mechanism for lifting the poor and disadvantaged out of poverty. He has also been concerned that the political bargaining process may end up undermining growth and not provide support to those who were excluded from access to economic opportunities. These essays, many of them classics and all published in Economic Weekly and Economic & Political Weekly, are drawn together in this volume both for their commentary on the last half century of economic development and for their contemporary relevance for understanding the political economy of development in India and elsewhere.Pp viii + 338 ISBN 81-250-3045-X 2006 Rs 350Available fromOrient Longman LtdMumbai Chennai New Delhi Kolkata Bangalore Bhubaneshwar Ernakulam Guwahati Jaipur LucknowPatna Chandigarh Hyderabad Contact:
NOTESEconomic & Political Weekly EPW may 17, 200893legislative assembly and the formation of an environmental committee headed by the speaker. Finally, after more than six closures in that many years, the company decided to sell out to IFFCO. Orissa has only recently woken up to the horrors of insensitive biomedic waste management after the body parts of fe-male foetuses were found near a private clinic in Nayagarh district. But discontent had been building up since long. A PIL was filed in the Orissa High Court in 2003 by Rabinarayan Mohapatra, on behalf of a Cuttack based NGO, Maitree Sadan alleg-ing that three government medical colleges and hospitals-1208-bed Sriramchandra Bhanja Medical College and Hospital, Cut-tack, 881-bed MKCG Medical College and Hospital, Berhampur and 772-bed VSS Medical College and Hospital, Burla, Sambalpur were disposing medical wastes in violation of the Medical Waste Manage-ment Rule 1998, thereby posing a serious threat to the health of the people.Much to be DesiredActing on the petition, the court then di-rected theOSPCB to monitor the process in which the medical colleges were disposing wastes and take action as per rule. Observing inaction the court sought a re-port from the regulatory body on the state of pollution in these hospitals. Dissatisfied with the report the court then appointed two retired judges to field investigate; they declined on health grounds. More than three years had elapsed. Finally in mid-2007 a single bench judicial commis-sion of enquiry was constituted. Based on its interim report the defaulting govern-ment institutions have recently installed individual waste treatment facility com-prising of incinerators, microwaves and shredders. The operations of these facili-ties are, as of now, under observation. Management of biomedical waste, in-cluding wastewater still leaves much to be desired, not inSCB Medical College alone but in Cuttack city itself, as it is the medi-cal hub of Orissa. Officially, the city has one medical college and hospital, six med-ical units, nine private hospitals (includ-ing exclusive cancer treatment facilities), 23 dispensaries, nine nursing homes, two veterinary hospitals and many unofficial one-room private clinics. About 16 kms from Sambalpur town, on the right bank of Hirakud dam with popu-lation of 39,188 (2001 Census) is Burla Notified Area Council. The 48-year-old VSS Medical College and Hospital here caters to lesser numbers but is equally vital to the district populace. The medical waste- waters partly drains into a pond in the Kirba mouza and partly into the Hirakud dam’s electricity power channel, which connects directly with Mahanadi flowing down to Sambalpur. Today, almost5,000 people in Burla use this power channel water for domestic purposes; they also drain their sewage into it. Here, as in Cuttack and elsewhere it is the same plaint from persecuted authorities – there is an acute shortage of technically trained manpower and agencies for waste management. Sithikantha Sahoo, regional officer of the SPCB, Sambalpur asks, “On paper medical waste disposal systems may ap-pear adequate, but supervision is poor. Whether the sweeper is actually carrying the solid wastes to its designated pit or throwing it on the closest roadside dump, is someone checking that?” 9 ConclusionsWhat poses a major challenge for the reg-ulatory authorities is that in black and white record, equipments in both indus-tries and medical facilities are in place; the crux lies in their operation, use and practice. It becomes next to impossible, for instance, for altogether one regional officer and two technical inspecting staff at the Sambalpur SPCB to monitor, let alone keep constant surveillance over 800 small and large industries spread over eight districts under their jurisdiction. Even when violators are booked, there are political and bureaucratic patrons who will often either stall the prosecution or bail them out. The regulatory bodies ur-gently need to be strengthened with more autonomy and infusion of technical human resource, given the rapid growth in industrial activity in the state.Note 1 Used Based Classification of Water: Class A: drinking water source without con-ventional treatment but after disinfection, class B: outdoor bathing, class C: drinking water source with conventional treatment followed by disinfection, class D: fish culture and wildlife propagation, class E: irrigation, industrial cooling or controlled waste disposal. Water Quality Parameters: Physical Parameters: Temperature, pH (a measure of acidity, neutral water has pH of 7; low pH indicates high acidity), alkalinity (a measure ofwater’s capacity to neutralise acidity), total suspended solids (TSS, refers to larger settleable solids, higherTSS gives problems of filtration and disinfection). Indicators of Organic Pollution: Dis-solved oxygen (DO, water require sufficient dis-solved oxygen to avoid onset of septic conditions and malodours. So the more organic pollutants in water, the more oxygen they use up. Traditionally, waste treatment required oxygen demanding ma-terials so as to maintain dissolved oxygen content in water. Minimum mg/l: class A-6.0, class B-5.0, class C-4.0, class D-4.0); biochemical oxygende-mand (BOD, most industrial and municipal waste contain high concentration of organic substances. Their presence encourages the growth of decom-posers which consume large quantities of oxygen. Less dissolved oxygen will mean less decomposi-tion and continued contamination, BOD is a measure of the contamination of wastewater. Maximum tolerance limit mg/l: class A-2.0, class B-3.0, class C-3.0), chemical oxygen demand (COD, chemicals in wastewater react with oxygen-oxidisation, and deplete dissolved oxygen maxi-mum limit-250 mg/l); free ammonia – nitrogen, total kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN). Bacteriological Parameters: Pathogen microorganisms which are potentially transmittable to man through drinking and bathing. Total Coliform (TC, indica-tor of bacterial contamination, maximum MPN/100ml: class A-50, class B-500, class C-5000;acceptablelimits: less than 2000) and fecal coliform (FC, indicatoroffecalcontamina-tion;acceptablelimitsless than 2000 MPN/100ml). Mineral Constituents: electrical conductivity (EC indicator of excess dissolved solids in waste-water), total dissolved solids (TDS tolerance limits: class A-500mg/l; class E-2100mg/l), boron,sodium absorption ratio (SAR), hardness, chloride, sulphate (result in odour and sewer cor-rosion), fluoride. ReferencesBehera, Anupam and Madhab Dash C (1999):En-vironment Status of Sambalpur-Burla-Hirakud Complex, 1999, Orissa Pollution Control Board, Bhubaneswar.Department of Civil Engineering, UCE, Burla (2006-07): Improvement of Sanitation System for Slums in Sambalpur Town under Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns, Sambalpur Municipality Corporation, Sambalpur.Jena, Manipadma (2004):Burnt Paddy and Dead Fish, Infochange Agenda – Industrial Pollution,, Centre for Communication and Development Studies, Pune, India.Murthy, Aruna and Himanshu Sekhar Patra(2006): Ecological, Socio-economic and Health Impact As-sessment Due to Aluminium Smelters – A Case Study of Hindalco in Orissa, Vasundhara, Bhubaneswar, , pp 19, 35-39.Orissa Water Policy-2007, Government of Orissa.OWSSB (2007): Presentation ofCuttack Sewerage Project, (under JNNURM), Orissa Water Supply and Sewerage Board, government of Orissa, Bhu-baneswar. – (2007): Report on Meeting of Standing Committee No VIIRelating to the Planning and Coordination Department, (Assembly of Orissa Legislative) Government of Orissa, Bhubaneswar.State Pollution Control Board Orissa (2006): State of Environment Orissa 2006, State Pollution Control Board Orissa, Bhubaneswar. – (2007):Water Quality of Major Rivers in Orissa, State Pollution Control Board Orissa, Bhubaneswar.Water Quality-Criteria and Goals (2001-02):MINARS, Central Pollution Control Board, New Delhi.

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