The Hindon in western Uttar Pradesh has become one of India's most polluted rivers due to callous industries as well as indifferent authorities and is causing serious diseases , says a new study.
A once clean river has been reduced to a trunk sewer passing through urban towns, carrying a heavy load of pesticides released both from factories as well as agricultural run off from the fields, says the report released by Janhit Foundation.
The foundation is an independent, not-for-profit NGO actively engaged in the promotion of human welfare through environmental protection. The report's author is Heather Lewis, an environmentalist from Britain.
The Hindon originates in the lower Himalayas in Saharanpur district and flows 260 km through six districts including Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Baghpat, Ghaziabad and Gautambudh Nagar, until its confluence with the Yamuna.
It is a major source of water to the highly populated and predominantly rural population of western Uttar Pradesh. It drains a catchment area of about 5,000 km of farmland while also flowing through a number of substantial sized towns and villages.
About 60 industrial manufacturing units are located along the Hindon and its two main tributaries, the Kali (West) and Krishni rivers. "These industries both abstract large volumes of water from the river for their manufacturing processes, and also discharge their industrial effluents, often with nominal or no treatment, directly to the river," says the 49-page report.
The erring industries include those producing paper and textiles, dairy units and slaughter houses.
"The Hindon no longer serves human domestic uses as it is clearly too polluted," says the study. "The river is now only used for the watering and washing of livestock.
"Use of the river for disposal of untreated human sewage is a primary cause of poor water quality within the Hindon. The river receives large volumes of untreated sewage and municipal wastes from all population centers within the catchment."
The river also receives a high loading of degradable and non-degradable domestic generated litter.
The entire length of the river apparently has only one water treatment plant, but this does not have adequate volume capacity. In the process, the river has no fish as a potential food source and is odorous and also a source of disease vectors such as faecal pathogens and mosquitoes.
The Hindon as well as its tributaries "are consistently and massively exceeding the maximum permissible values for health surface water and for safe drinking water", said the report.
"Water from the river and tributaries is unable to support a functioning aquatic ecosystem nor is the water safe for drinking due to the presence of toxic heavy metals. Any person using this water for domestic purposes will exhibit symptoms of heavy metal poisoning."
Because of the contaminated river and ground water, villagers along the Hindon suffer from serious illnesses such as cancer, neurological disorders, stomach and digestive disorders, skin lesions and respiratory disorders, the report said.
Within the seven villages proven to have toxic contamination of drinking water, 107 people have died in the last five years from the above diseases that are characteristic of water poisoning.
The study has urged a wide array of central and state government authorities to act fast to save the Hindon.
These include the Uttar Pradesh State Pollution Control Board, which is being asked to take action against all industries currently discharging untreated effluents. Non-complying industries, the study says, should be closed until suitable effluent treatment plants are installed. Further hazardous industries should also be prevented from operating and discharging within the river catchment areas.