A study done by researchers of the Indian Institute of Technology-Madras (IIT-M) has found that contaminants, including pharmaceutically active compounds, personal care products, plastics, flame retardants, heavy metals and pesticides, pollute the Cauvery.
This underscores the need to regularly monitor the river and its tributaries for pharmaceutical contamination, the researchers said. The contamination is particularly serious because India is the second largest pharmaceutical manufacturer.
Drug compounds, when released into waterbodies even in minuscule amounts, can harm human beings and the ecosystem in the long term, the researchers said, calling for upgrading wastewater treatment systems.
The study also highlighted the need to assess the long-term impact of such contamination on human health and the ecosystem.
The study was carried out with funding from the Water Technology Initiative of the Department of Science and Technology and the Natural Environment Research Council in the U.K. The findings were published in an international peer-reviewed journal.
A team of researchers from the IIT, led by Ligy Philip, who is the Nita and KG Ganapathi Institute Chair Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, quantified the seasonal distribution of emerging contaminants and pollutants in the Cauvery. The researchers monitored the water quality for two years to assess the seasonal variation of emerging contaminants, especially pharmaceutically active compounds.
The team collected water samples from 22 locations along the entire stretch. The quality of water in the catchments was also monitored. It found that water quality and the levels of pharmaceutical contaminants were influenced by the monsoon. The levels were high after monsoon owing to the reduced riverine flow and continuous waste discharge.
The team’s risk assessment had shown that pharmaceutical contaminants pose medium-to-high risk to select aquatic life forms of the riverine system