Skip to main content

Wastewater irrigation along polluted Sabarmati river in the downstream adversely affects crop quality: IWMI study

Sabarmati in the downstream, near Vautha
By Our Representative
Latest study carried out by five experts -- P Amerasinghe, RM Bhardwaj, C Scott, K Jella and F Marshall -- “Urban Wastewater and Agricultural Reuse Challenges in India”, for the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Colombo, has identified Gujarat as one of the three states which has “some of the most polluted rivers”, adding crops irrigated with wastewaters discharged into Sabarmati in the downstream have adversely affected crop quality along the river.
The other two states are Punjab and Andhra Pradesh. Put out this year, the study is based on household surveys at selected sites in several river basins, including in two kilometres periphery of downstream of the Sabarmati river, which passes through Gujarat’s commercial capital, Ahmedabad. The villages involved in the study are Gyaspur, Asamli, Bakrol, Chitrasar, Fatehpura, Navapura, Rinza, Saorda and Vautha.
The authors says, “Secondary and primary data together with livelihood analyses of farmers from Ahmedabad, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kanpur and Kolkata formed the basis for the analysis. These cities were considered as a representative cross section of the country”. They add, though “wastewater treatment” may have improved in Ahmedabad, and the city’s four sewage treatment plants (STPs) with a capacity to treat 633 million litres per day (MLD), are sufficient to cater to all wastewater, ”infrastructural development lags behind and the plants run below capacity.”
The study says, an overview of water supply and wastewater generation in the case study suggests another major factor, that farming quality by irrigating through wastewater has actually deteriorated in the downstream area of Sabarmati. While respondents that “wastewater provides a reliable water supply”, there was a serious concern on the water of quality. In Ahmedabad, as in Delhi, “the soil fertility had declined and impacted agricultural productivity”. This was attributed to “poor water quality affecting the soils.
In the past, the study said, in villages near Ahmedabad clean river water was available in 90 per cent of the land area. Presently, there is year-round wastewater for irrigation. The quality of farmers cultivating along the cultivating paddy and wheat, fruits and horticultural crops has deteriorated. Agricultural cropping pattern has changed. The study underlines, “Wastewater carries many biological and chemical agents that pose hazards and can impact environmental and human health. Wastewater-related health impacts could be direct or indirect, manifesting as short- or long-term illness episodes.”
It adds, “Most studies tend to look at potential health risks by identifying contaminants in water rather than actual crop contamination and human exposure during farm work or consumption of contaminated food. The state-level Pollution Control Boards in India have the capacity to test a range of these parameters in their routine water-quality monitoring, including physical, chemical and biological parameters such as heavy metals and a variety of pesticides and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons.” Yet, it laments, “The soil and agricultural products are not monitored routinely although they could be tested on request.”
The study says, wastewater used for agriculture in the cities under study, including Ahmedabad, is “contaminated with sewage, and hospital and industrial wastes at different degrees, and the possible health impacts will depend on the pollution load, irrigation history and level of exposure on the respective sites. The water and soil-quality studies in all four study sites clearly showed the presence of elements that can have potential health impacts.” It underlines, “Impacts were evident in the water-quality parameters. There is plenty of evidence in the literature that particular chemical hazards have to be expected. Water, soil and grain analysis in sites close to Sabarmati river (Ahmedabad) showed elevated levels of some metals (Cd, Cr, Cu) in the river water and chromium and copper in the well water. High levels of lead were found in wheat irrigated with groundwater which was also contaminated.”
As for Delhi, “heavy metals (Cd, Pb and Zn) were a serious concern in and around Delhi, as several studies showed elevated levels (above the Indian standards under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act) in commonly eaten vegetables like spinach, okra, and cauliflower. In Kanpur and Delhi, the surface water and soils were contaminated with a variety of metals (Cu, Cd, Cr, Fe, Mn, Ni, Pb and Zn), discharged by small-scale industries which are not monitored stringently.”
It adds, “Responses to the questionnaire revealed that in Delhi, Kolkata and Hyderabad farmers complained of skin irritations, apart from the smell that caused breathing problems, but they did not consider it a major problem. Kolkata farmers were aware of the deteriorating water quality, and were taking precautionary measures to safeguard their skins when engaging in wastewater-related activities, using natural herbs and oils.”
Things were found to be not very different for Ahmedabad and Kanpur, where there is heavy concentration of industry. Here, the “complaints were more pronounced, with visible ulceration, callous tissue formation, heavy skin irritations and dark finger nails. Public health concerns were raised over the high prevalence of helminth ova in commonly consumed vegetables like mint, lettuce, spinach, celery and parsley.”
The study points out, “Although the communities did not complain, the health officials in the hospitals stated that dysentery/diarrhea, worm infections and skin problems were common among the communities, and a good majority did not seek treatment at government hospitals. Therefore, private practitioners and local quacks play an important role in treating these communities. As a result, these episodes never get into the overall health statistics. Epidemiological and microbiological investigations along with health economics studies are required to assess the health risks and economic costs associated with wastewater farming in the communities.”
Another study, which was made last year, “Wastewater Irrigation in Gujarat: An Exploratory Study”, sponsored jointly by IWMI and Ratan Tata Trust, Mumbai, says that the key factors driving increasing use of wastewater are three fold. “First set of driving factors is based on limited availability of freshwater. There is no access to canal water; groundwater is saline; water table has gone very deep and/or diesel costs are too high. The second, and more recent driver of wastewater irrigation expansion is rapid urbanization which has resulted in competition between irrigation needs and municipal demand with priority being given to the later. There is ever-growing sewage generation and its use for irrigation turns out to be a convenient way for cities to dispose off this otherwise unmanageable sewage. The third set of driving factors for expansion in wastewater irrigation is related to farmers' convictions.”
Carried out by Alka Palrecha, Dheeraj Kapoor and Teja Malladi, it says, “Many farmers irrigate with wastewater despite having the option of freshwater irrigation because they are convinced that wastewater is more reliable and accessible throughout the year, cheaper to lift, and more profitable because of its nutrient value leading to higher yields and savings in fertilizer input costs.”
It further says, “A critical factor in wastewater irrigation is that untreated and partially treated water is being applied to land. Its impact needs to be studied especially, on soil quality and groundwater aquifers, where it gets leached. The small holders of land did not have any aversion towards using sewage water for irrigation. They claimed that it does not cause any harm to soil quality as the flow in river naturally cleanses the water and in addition, it is rich in nutrients. On the other hand, large landowners felt that the use of this water may harden the soils due to detergent and other chemicals present in it.”
The authors insist that, given this factor, the “amount and quality of the nutrients present in the wastewater have to be ascertained by technical experts and farmers in order to guarantee proper application. It needs to be discussed by experts, farmers and extension support may be required for making this knowledge available. Currently, conventional irrigation techniques of either flood or furrow irrigation are used to irrigate with wastewater. Micro irrigation technology is not suitable for using wastewater. Hence, suitable irrigation technique needs to be explored.”

Comments

TRENDING

Whither Govt of India strategy to reduce import dependence on crude oil, natural gas?

By NS Venkataraman*  India presently imports around 80% of it’s crude oil requirement and around 50% of its natural gas requirements . As the domestic production of crude oil and natural gas are virtually stagnant and the domestic demand is increasing at around 7% per annum, India’s steadily increasing dependence on import of the vital energy source is a matter of high energy security concern. This is particularly so, since the price of crude oil and natural gas are considerably fluctuating / increasing in the global market due to geo political factors, which are beyond the control of India. India has promised to achieve zero emission by the year 2070, which mean that the level of emission has to start declining at slow and steady rate from now onwards. It is now well recognized that global emission is caused largely due to use of coal as fuel and natural gas as fuel and feedstock. While burning of coal as fuel cause emission of global warming carbon dioxide gas and sulphur

Muslim intellectuals met Bhagwat, extra-constitutional authority 'like Sanjay Gandhi'

By Shamsul Islam*  In a significant development a delegation of five Muslim intellectuals namely former chief election commissioner SY Quraishi; former senior bureaucrat Najeeb Jung; former AMU vice-chancellor and Lt Gen (retd) Zameer U Shah; politician-cum-journalist Shahid Siddiqui (presently with RLD); and businessman Saeed Shervani [Samajvadi Party] met RSS Supremo Mohan Bhagwat at RSS Delhi headquarters. The meeting was kept secret for reasons known to the participants and was held in August. According to the Muslim intellectuals the meeting held in “a very cordial” atmosphere continued for 75 minutes whereas time allotted was 30 minutes! In a post-meeting justification of the parleys Quraishi stated that their main concern was “the insecurity being increasingly felt by the Muslim community in the wake of recurring incidents of lynching of innocents, calls by Hindutva hotheads for genocide and the marginalisation of the community in almost every sphere”. This delegation consistin

'Massive concern for people': Modi seeking to turn India into global manufacturing hub

By Shankar Sharma*  The news item quoting Narendra Modi at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meet, "Want to turn India into a manufacturing hub: PM Modi at SCO Summit" should be of massive concern to our people. One can only continue to be shocked by such policies, which can be termed as ill-conceived to say the least. Without objectively considering the environmental and social impacts on our communities in the medium to long term, such policies will also result in massive economic impacts because a lack of environmental and social perspective cannot be economically attractive either. In order to become the global manufacturing hub, India will have to meet an enormous demand for energy of various kinds, and in order to meet this much energy demand the economy has to manufacture enormous number of appliances/ gadgets/ machineries (to generate and distribute commercial forms of energy such as coal, nuclear, gas, hydro, and renewable energy (RE) sources such as so

Pesticide companies' lobbying 'seriously impairing' basics of governance, regulation

Dr Narasimha Reddy Donthi*  The Indian agricultural sector is grappling with low incomes, shortage of natural resources, increasing pest incidence and low public investments in research and extension. Pest attacks are increasing. Previously unknown pests are attacking crops. Farmers, indebted as they are due to various market mechanisms, are finding it hard to protect their crop investments. Thus, farmers are pushed into the conundrum of pesticide usage by pesticide markets and companies. Pesticide usage in India is increasingly becoming a regulatory problem. Regulation has not been effective in the face of such challenges. Scientific expertise on pesticides is often subsumed in the policy tradeoffs that, in the ultimate scenario, encourage production and marketing of Highly Hazardous Pesticides (HHPs). Expert Committee reports, which are recommending withdrawal of certain HHPs, are not being acted upon. Lobbying by pesticide companies has seriously impaired the basics of governance an

Kerala health bill public hearing? Here the minister 'ensured' cameras were turned off

By Our Representative  On Friday, September 30, 2022, about 100 members of the general public gathered at the conference room of the collectorate at Ernakulam, Kerala, to express their apprehensions about the Kerala Public Health Bill, 2021, which the state assembly referred to a 15-member select committee chaired by state health and family welfare minister, Veena George. Minister Veena George asserted at the outset that this was a sitting of the select committee, and all cameras would need to be turned off. Advocate PA Pouran, general secretary of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties in Kerala, stood up in protest, arguing that the meeting was a public hearing and should ideally be televised to reach vast numbers of people. Other members of the audience protested too, but the minister insisted that the gathering was part of a sitting of the select committee.  “Why then did you invite all of us?” protested George Mathew, who had arrived from Aluva and earlier served as a member of t

How Gandhian values have become 'casualty' in India under majoritarian BJP rule

By Sandeep Pandey*  A Muslim youth was beaten recently when he tried to witness the famous garba performance during the Hindu religious nine days festival of Navratri in Gujarat. There was a time when Muslims could easily participate in Garbha events in an atmosphere of cordiality. Bilkis Bano was gang raped in 2002 Gujarat communal violence, her 3 years old daughter, the child in womb and a total of 14 family members were killed. 11 accused were awarded life term. However, recently a District level committee has decided to release all the culprits. A ruling Bhartiya Janata Party leader has described some of these criminals as virtuous Brahmins, the highest among the Hindu hierarchical caste system. In a communally polarized Gujarat today most Muslims feel offended by the decision of the government and BJP supporters either justify the release of rapists and murderers or just ignore the ignominious decision. Mahatma Gandhi came from the Guj

Golwalkar's views on tricolour, martyrs, minorities, caste as per RSS archives

By Shamsul Islam*  First time in the history of independent India, the in-charge minister of the Cultural Ministry in the current Modi government, Prahlad Singh Patel, has glorified MS Golwalkar, second supremo of the RSS and the most prominent ideologue of the RSS till date, on his birth anniversary, February 19. In a tweet he wrote : “Remembering a great thinker, scholar, and remarkable leader #MSGolwalkar on his birth anniversary. His thoughts will remain a source of inspiration & continue to guide generations.”

'True decolonisation move': Demand to name new Parliament building after Ambedkar

By Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd*  In recent weeks, there has been a demand for the new Parliament building being constructed on the revamped Central Vista in New Delhi to be named after the architect of the Constitution and anti-caste leader BR Ambedkar. On September 14, the Telangana Assembly passed a resolution urging the Centre to name the new Parliament building after Ambedkar. The Bharatiya Janata Party was absent during the debate about the resolution. The next day, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi-led government declared that the new secretariat in the centre of Hyderabad would be named after Ambedkar. Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao added that he would write to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting him to name the new Parliament building in Delhi “Ambedkar Parliament”. The demand is finding resonance among civil society groups too and has led to social media discussions as well as public mobilisation.  But two questions arise: Should a Parliament that makes laws for a nation over a

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Paradox? Heavy military deployment has had 'tangible success' in enhancing J&K security

By Katarzyna Rybarczyk*  An ethnically diverse Himalayan region of Kashmir has been a subject of a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan since the partition in 1947. Despite both countries claiming full control over the region’s entirety, Kashmir is divided between them, into an Indian-administered part and a Pakistan-administered part. For the last three decades, Indian-controlled Kashmir has been characterised by unrest due to a separatist insurgency opposing the Indian rule. Although India’s fragile relationship with Kashmir is not a new issue, tensions intensified when in 2019 India revoked Article 370, depriving the region of its special status and a certain degree of autonomy attributed to it. Article 370 allowed Kashmir to have its own constitution and to make decisions regarding property ownership and permanent residency. As a result, Indians from other parts of the country were not able to purchase property and settle in Kashmir. Scrapping Kashmir’s special status me