The strict enforcement of 21-day lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic has turned out to be a boon for the Cauvery and other rivers in the old Mysuru region as the prohibition of industrial and religious activities has helped in reducing pollution level in the rivers.
According to the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), the Cauvery and tributaries like Kabini, Hemavati, Shimsha, and Lakshmanathirtha are regaining their decades-old status in terms of water quality.
While some industries were discharging untreated effluents/chemicals into the Cauvery, pilgrims were dumping tonnes of waste material, including clothes, every day.
The fate of other rivers was not different from the Cauvery. Untreated sewage from residential areas; pollutants from industries; religious waste material from pilgrims, and construction debris had been polluting the rivers.
These rivers were flowing with hazardous elements such as lead, fluoride, faecal coliform, and some suspended solids in highly dangerous quantity. It is evident that the lockdown has significantly brought down the pollution level in rivers, said sources in KSPCB.
However, the board will test the water samples at the regional laboratory in Mysuru under the national programme ‘Monitoring of Indian National Aquatic Resources and Global Environmental Monitoring Scheme’ shortly, said the sources.
The Cauvery was clean when this correspondent visited Karighatta near Srirangapatna on Monday.
Seventy-year-old Marigowda at Karighatta said he had not seen the Cauvery with such “clear and pure water” in the last three decades. According to Nanjamma of Mandya Koppalu, the colour of water was green-black at some places and blue-black at some places till March 22.
Residents of Agrahara, Maralagala, Doddi Palya, Dodda Palya, Chikka Palya, Chinnanayakana Halli, and Mahadevapura on the Cauvery course near Srirangapatna wished the river remained this clear in the future too.
According to them, the Cauvery has been flowing with surprisingly clean water for the last few days following the stoppage of industrial/religious waste entering the river.
The decreasing pollution level in the Cauvery has also enthused the senior revenue officials in Srirangapatna. It is evident that pollution in the Cauvery has significantly decreased, said V.R. Shailaja, Assistant Commissioner, Revenue, Pandavapura subdivision. Speaking to The Hindu , she said the Cauvery is gaining its original sacredness following the lockdown. Her department would initiate pragmatic measures to ensure the river remains clean in future too.
Srirangapatna tahsildar M.V. Roopa said she would initiate measures to curb pollutants. “We will display caution boards at pilgrim centres along the Cauvery, initiate measures to prevent people from leaving religious waste in the water, and take legal actions against industries if they discharge untreated effluents,” she said.
Priests at Paschima Vahini, Gosai Ghat and Sangam on the banks of the river perform death-related rituals. At least 3,000 people visit these places and temples in Srirangapatna every day and dump tonnes of plantain leaves, garlands, clay pots, coconuts, photos of deities, clothes, polythene covers, leftover food, and other puja material in the Cauvery.