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Orissa Govt. blamed for declining quality of river water

By Prafulla Das

BHUBANESWAR, AUG. 5. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India has pulled up the Orissa Government and the Orissa Pollution Control Board (OPCB) for their failure on various fronts, including their inability to check deterioration of water quality in major rivers of the State.

In its latest report, the CAG has said that due to the lack of proper enforcement and water-management by the OPCB, water quality in major rivers had deteriorated from category `C' to `below C'. ``There was unspent balance of Rs. 5.10 crores, as of March 1999, with OPCB due to non-utilisation of amounts for allotted works.'' Industrial effluents, mine drainage water, untreated sewage from urban settlements, agricultural water and run off from open defecation on the river banks had polluted surface water causing health hazards, the report observed.

Except in a couple of industrial townships, there was no complete sewage system in any urban settlement. And pollution from urban domestic sources had not been seriously addressed. ``As a result, the water quality of the Brahmani and Mahanadi has, by and large, deteriorated, to `below C' class category during 1994 to 1999, rendering it unfit for potable use. Review of implementation of the environmental Acts and rules relating to water pollution in the State has revealed that the State Government did not monitor the enforcement of provisions of the Water Act effectively.''

The report also said the ecology of the unique wetland, Chilka, was affected due to ``drainage of untreated waste water from domestic and agricultural sources.'' Though Rs. 19.31 crores were spent to preserve the wetland, there was no conclusive evidence of improvement in the environmental conditions of the lake. ``The OPCB did not have any action plan to protect Chilka from pollution.''

In the Mahanadi river basin, there were several industrial pockets with many polluting industries and 10 coal mines which discharged huge quantities of water with heavy metal and sulphur compounds during monsoon, posing a serious environmental threat. The OPCB, which was required to prepare a regional environmental management plan (REMP) for the Mahanadi basin, ``took no concrete action for preparation of a REMP since 1995... In the absence of REMP, action to control deterioration of the quality of Mahanadi river was also not taken. The Government stated that preparation of REMP could not be carried out for want of financial assistance. This is not tenable as the Board had huge unspent funds which should have been utilised for this.''

Besides, there were as many as 34 urban settlements in the Mahanadi basin, discharging about 2,66,332 Kl/d of waste water without any treatment. As there was practically no sewage system in any urban settlement, domestic waste water was being drained into the river basin violating the stipulated condition of the Water Act, 1974. ``The pollution category of the Mahanadi was downgraded due to unabated release of industrial and domestic waste.''

The Brahmani also had major industrial pockets and a number of coal and chromite mines in its basin. While massive industrial pollutants were being drained into it, drainage water was flowing into the river from coal mines, the report said.

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