People yet to understand gravity of Periyar pollution, says expert

‘They believe that water purification removes all pollutants’

Updated - May 08, 2017 08:05 am IST

Published - May 07, 2017 07:26 pm IST - Kochi

For TH

For TH

The people, especially the middle class, aren’t really seized of the gravity and direness of the pollution that has turned the lifeline of Ernakulam, the Periyar river, into a watery pool of toxins, maintains researcher GD Martin whose book Periyar: Puzhayum Jeevanum Veendedukkam was released last month.

“The river, which is the drinking water source of some 40 lakh people, carries all sorts of toxins, chemicals, persistent organic pollutants (pops), radioactive material and the like, thanks to unhindered pollution of the river by industries in the Edayar-Eloor industrial region over the past few decades. But somehow, a large section of the middle class still believes that reverse osmosis treatment and water purification at home would remove all pollutants from the water they drink. The lethality of heavy metal contamination hasn’t really sunken in. The people will have to realise its magnitude for the governments to wake up from their slumber and salvage the situation,” says Martin who is part of the Collective for Right to Live (Coral) that has brought out the book.

Mr. Martin, who is pursuing his post-doctoral at the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies, says that some 68 scientific studies have so far been held, from the 1980s, on the pollution of the Periyar. “No other water body in India has been so consistently examined as the river, but unfortunately, despite all this, very little has been done to mitigate the pollution and ensure that all companies on its banks practise a ‘zero discharge’ [of effluents] policy. Estimates suggest that with 260 million litres of pollutants entering the river each day, it’s one of the worst polluted riverine ecosystems in India. A hydrographic modelling conducted by the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) revealed that the pollutants entering the river get settled in the Kochi estuary and the Vembanad lake and do not get flushed out to the sea. This has resulted in fish kill and extinction of aquatic life in the vast expanse of the lake, especially astride islands such as Vypeen, Bolgatty, Mulavukad and Kadamakkudy.”

The strength of the river current, he says, ebbed to a fifth.

He doesn’t think that the formation of a river authority is going to address a problem that could not be contained despite having stringent laws like the Water Act, rules thereto and the Environment Protection Act.

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