Sea of sewage: Musi reduced to a stinking slurry

The Musi River in Hyderabad has turned a cesspool, with pollution at different stretches reaching a worrying level.   | Photo Credit: K.V.S. Giri

First, the good news: the Musi River that flows through Hyderabad is now a perennial river. The bad news: most of the water is sewage dumped into the river basin by the booming population.

The river begins its journey in the city from the Himayatsagar dam. Just under the dam wall, there are small pools of water. Water that seeps and collects just under the 20th-century dam built to protect Hyderabad from the monsoon fury of the Musi. This is the Esi tributary of the river. A few kilometres to the west is the Osmansagar or Gandipet reservoir. There is no discharge of water from the dam in January and the Musa tributary of the river is a bed of rocks and small scattered puddles.

Stagnant build-up

Following the riverbed, north brings us to the Tipu Khan Bridge and there is sufficient build-up of stagnant water. The waste water from the surrounding colonies finds its way to the river. Further north is the newly built Langar Houz bridge.

An octagonal stone marks the point where the Musa and Esi tributaries of the river merge. The river is now a flowing frothing black stream. A little beyond is the Bapughat where the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi were immersed in the river. It was among the 11 places in the country where the ashes were immersed. Now, funeral rites are performed there for commoners. For performing rituals, the workers have created a small bund with sandbags to keep sufficient water in the river.

Further down the river, where it turns east, the floodplains have high-rises on one side and a shanty-town on the other. At the Attapur bridge, the stream looks like a river lapping both the banks as people stop and throw plastic bags filled with trash into it.

A few hundred metres downstream is the 51-MLD sewage treatment plant (STP) that treats water from Bapughat, Bahadurpura and Mughal ka Naka areas. There are vast settlement tanks. “This is new technology, both the aeration and settlement is done in the same tank,” says a staffer at the site. The air near the tanks has the rancid odour of thousands of eggs gone bad. There is one more 23-MLD STP at the same location.

Before the entrance, there is a new schematic diagram for ‘Faecal Sludge and Septage Management Facility’. It will involve treating faecal matter before it enters the grit chamber of STP.

“All these years, the faecal matter was treated along with other waste water. This specialised treatment is better as the generated waste can be used as fertiliser. It has no smell and can be handled normally,” says Srinivasa Chary of Administrative Staff College of India, shaking a glass beaker with dark brown crystalline soil.

ASCI was the knowledge partner for Telangana’s policy on Faecal Sludge and Septage Management.

Slime and stink

At Attapur, the project is yet to go on stream. As the river winds its way past Ganesh Ghat and Puranapul Shamshan Bhoomi, the water gets increasingly darker. A spanking wide concrete road stretches from Toli Masjid to the Purana Pul passing the old abattoir, sheep market and transfer station of GHMC at Ziyaguda. The animal waste from the abattoir finds its way into the river. Near Purana Pul built in 1578, a community of washermen go about their tasks by digging small pits to draw clear water for their washing purpose.

On the other side, under the road in front of the Telangana High Court building is a ramp that leads down to the river front garden. The river is walled up in dressed stone and under a beautiful horseshoe arch flows the untreated sewage from the surrounding areas of Charminar. It fills up a small tank.

“This water is pumped to Amberpet where it is treated and released into the river,” informs a sanitary worker who complains about snakes and mosquitoes.

The sanitary worker’s unenviable job is to stir the water laced with faecal matter to ensure that it doesn’t get clogged. Amberpet is one of the biggest STPs for the city with a capacity of 339 MLD.

“Water from Purana Pul as well as other distant places reaches this plant. We treat the water and frequently test for standard parameters. The water released from the plant meets the river water standards,” says the official in-charge of the STP.

As per a Central Pollution Control Board report on June 28, 2019, only 49% of the sewage generated by the city is treated while 51% untreated sewage from drains and nalas is discharged directly into the river.

Of the 22 STPs in the city, 13 are not operating to full capacity. Out of 20 STPs, five were found to be not complying with discharge norms. The city generates estimated sewage of 1,400 ML per day (180 litres per person norm). Of this, the Pollution Control Board estimates that 592 MLD is treated and rest is untreated sewage turning the river into a foul stinking slurry that flows through the city.

The result? At Nagole, beside the newly-established Shilparamam, the river is broad — it gurgles and roars out of the city. The dark frothing water is nearly 200 metres wide but to call the flowing slime a river would be a travesty.

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 3:57:02 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/sea-of-sewage-musi-reduced-to-a-stinking-slurry/article30497395.ece

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