Sankarabarani, Puducherry’s lifeline, faces threat

Thick spread of garbage, especially plastics, contaminates the river

March 15, 2020 11:50 pm | Updated March 16, 2020 08:54 am IST - PUDUCHERRY

Uncontrolled pollution:  A view of the Sankarabarani covered with water hyacinth and weeds at Villianur.

Uncontrolled pollution: A view of the Sankarabarani covered with water hyacinth and weeds at Villianur.

Indiscriminate dumping of waste and negligence by the authorities has reduced the Sankarabarani in Villianur to a major drain.

Originating from Gingee in the neighbouring Villupuram district, the Sankarabarani, which flows for 24 km, is a major river in Puducherry after Thenpennaiar.

Rampant pollution due to dumping of waste by industries and unscientific disposal of sewage poses a serious health hazard to people living in the river basin. The water is highly contaminated downstream, especially at Uruvaiyaru and Villianur. The contamination has been aggravated by illegal sand mining in several areas.

Although Puducherry has a designated dump, the local bodies have miserably failed to enforce the rule. Mounds of solid waste can be seen on the banks of the river. The area near the Villianur bridge presents a sorry picture with vast quantities of solid waste, especially plastic carry bags and liquor bottles, floating in the river. Water hyacinth and weeds cover a major portion of the waterbody. Raw sewage is let into the river, residents allege. The authorities should take steps to prevent dumping of waste into the river, stop illegal sand mining, dredge the canals, remove encroachments on either side of the river and prevent discharge of raw effluents from industries, residents said. T.P. Raghunath, a member of Alliance for Good Governance (AGG), said: “Pollution is more visible near the bridges of the river in Villianur but the condition is the same all along the river. Several industries, including chemical and pharmaceutical companies near Uruvaiyaru and Mangalam, have been using the river as a convenient place to dump waste and the stench is strong, especially at night.”

An integrated approach by the district administration with the departments concerned is the need of the hour, he says. Letting out household and commercial sewage into the river only deteriorate the condition further. Knee-jerk reactions and occasional action will not bring in any solutions and the communities must be asked to act as watchdogs, Mr. Raghunath said.

A meaningful reporting system should be put in place with heavy punishment and fine, including cancellation of licences and disconnection of water and power connection, he added. “The Sankarabarani river is a major source of water recharge and supports agriculture in Villianur and several communes. There is a need to ensure that the river is protected from pollution and a close watch maintained to prevent dumping of industrial wastes, garbage and other waste materials in the river,” said B. Radha of Villianur.

“How much ever the municipal authorities and other agencies put in efforts, there is need for private industrial owners and others to have civic responsibility. The river is the lifeline for farmers and other sections in the neighbourhood. Water flows in the river from the Oussudu Lake and nothing should be left to chance,” she said.

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