VALUING THE ENVIRONMENT

Dr. Mohammad Aneesul Mehmood

 

There is need to create awareness about the impact of increasing pollution levels in our pristine water bodies, including, Dal lake, Wullar Lake, Nigeen Lake, river Jhelum, writes Dr. M. A. Mohammad Aneesul Mehmood. According to him last three decades have been that of urbanization, industrialization and unsustainable agriculture pratices polluting water resources. In Jhelum, there has been substantial decline in discharge, reasons being loss of glacier mass due to climate change and uncontrolled pollution. Sewage is being discharged into Jhelum without treatment. It elevates organic matter load in water and bacteria consume more oxygen. Unsustainable development practices must be stopped.

Excerpts:

River Jhelum:

“The river Jhelum is the main water resource of the Kashmir valley and is associated with Kashmiri civilisation for centuries. The Jhelum is greatly utilised for its water, and food particularly fish. The river Jhelum along with its tributaries comprises the largest river system in Kashmir and is mainly utilised for irrigation and domestic purpose. During the past three decades, rapid increase in population, urbanization, industrialization and unsustainable agricultural practices have heavily polluted this prime water resource of Kashmir. Agricultural run-off, draining into the river Jhelum, is one of the major sources of pollution containing chemical fertilizer residues, pesticides, heavy metals and other organic pollutants. The fish forms a significant place in the food chain of the human beings and could be a potential indicator of aquatic pollution. Jammu and Kashmir state has annual fish catch of 19.9 thousand tonnes, and maximum portion is being contributed by river Jhelum and its tributaries; however, fishermen claim that fish production of the valley is showing a declining trend. The reason behind the fall in population of various fish species especially Schizothorax sp. has been related directly to water quality deterioration and pollution”.

 

Contributing factors of decline:

“Perusal of various reports provides an insight that there is substantial decline in the discharge of the Jhelum since 1960s and autumn season reflects the acute discharge decline. Loss of glacier mass due to climate change and uncontrolled pollution load to Jhelum seem to be potential reasons for such kind of incidents. Pollution is as old as civilization itself. The problem of pollution of water was not as serious in the past as it is now. Due to human interference, pollution of natural water resources by domestic, agricultural and industrial sewage causes problems throughout the world. Water quality is determined by its natural conditions which have been significantly altered by anthropogenic activities such as urbanization, industrial expansions and unsustainable agricultural practices. Water resources particularly rivers are generally used as dumping ground for waste water both from point and diffuse sources. Wastes from these sources include phenols, sewage, oil, acids, solid waste, heavy metals, salts, detergents, organic, inorganic materials, dissolved solids and several other noxious and non-biodegradable materials. The non-point sources are overland run-off from rural, urban, agricultural land and solid wastes from municipalities, commercial areas, shopping complexes and motor workshop industries. As consequence of these human activities, the  water resources get readily contaminated with various pollutants. These anthropogenic activities altogether open a chain of problems leading to decline in water quality, accumulation of lethal chemicals, shrinkage in surface area, loss of aesthetic value and physiological disturbance of flora and fauna particularly fishes, even few agrochemicals from agricultural lands can have mutagenic and carcinogenic effects as well”.

 

Menace of Unsustainable development:

“The Jhelum River which is the prime water source for Kashmiri people, has been neglected for any concrete policy on drainage and sewage treatment. A famous saying about the river “all roads lead to Jhelum” has been altered to “all drains lead to Jhelum”. The pollution to river Jhelum is mainly in the form of sewage from various domestic, commercial and industrial sources. Wastewater treatment is not given the obligatory importance in our state as it deserves and, therefore, sewage is being discharged into Jhelum without any treatment and ultimately elevates the organic matter load in the water and bacteria consume more oxygen for their respiration, resulting in lower levels of dissolved oxygen in water. This recent incident again opens our eyes to take care of aquatic biodiversity and to restrict our unsustainable developmental practices and if ignored again, can lead to alarming situation in near future. It is therefore suggested that concerned authorities at national, state and district level should take immediate measures (such as complete ban on discharge of untreated industrial effluents and municipal sewage into the river) for restoration of river Jhelum and the services of environmentalists of the state can also be utilized in this regard. People residing in proximity of the river Jhelum should be educated about the clean environment and negative impacts of stream pollution in relation to human health and broadly at ecosystem level and government authorities need to implement water quality guidelines strictly in order to control river pollution from point and non-point sources”.

 

[Courtesy: Daily Greater Kashmir, Srinagar, Kashmir, November 19, 2017].

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