Water report says little, hides a lot

KOLKATA, 11 JAN: Even when the coliform count in the Ganga is 500 times more than the permissible limit, a Central Water Commission (CWC) report calls the river clean, raising a clamour that the report says little and hides a lot.
The report ~ Water Quality Hot-spots in Rivers of India ~ by the CWC was released in New Delhi by the Union water resources minister, Mr Pawan Kumar Bansal, to provide the water quality scenario of our rivers.
Besides several loopholes, the report has failed to include data compiled by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the primary agency for the purpose, through its 2,000 monitoring stations countrywide. The CWC report is based on findings from only 371 sampling stations all over the country. The report, when compared with the CPCB reports and data, presents a very rosy picture about the situation. “The CPCB visits a river site and grabs samples from the most polluted spots in the course of the river. But, we divided rivers into several segments and then collected samples from each segment to find an average value,” said Mr Anupam Prasad, director of the Central Water Commission’s River Data Directorate. If West Bengal doesn’t feature in the hot-spot list, then it is not as polluted as the other places, he said. The report included samples only from downstream of Farrakka excluding the city.
River expert Kalyan Rudra laughed at the process of collecting samples and said the coliform count in the Ganga is in lakhs against the permissible limit of 500 at several places in the city. “If the report doesn’t include places where the industrial belt and urban centres are located, I have doubts about the quality of the report,” he said. The water near Farrakka is not polluted but pollution near the Dakshineswar ghat is alarming. If samples of both the stations are mixed and an average value is calculated (the way CWC has done), it leads to nothing as the values would not represent any of the stations, he added. “The CWC never discloses information on discharge and sediment load, the work it should be doing,” he said.
Mr DD Basu, senior scientist, CPCB, said they came to know about the CWC report only when it was released publicly.
Though he refused to comment on the matter, a senior official of the CPCB said it was evident from the poor quality of the report that it was done in a hurry.
The CWC report does not include findings of the basic parameters mentioned in the Uniform Protocol on Water Quality Monitoring Order, 2005. In case of heavy metals, only Arsenic is reported, while the Uniform Protocol recommends minimum inclusion of Cadmium, Mercury, Zinc, Chromium, Lead, Nickel and Iron. This information is directly related to health issues and is hence very crucial.

Soma Basu

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