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Industrial waste discharge into South Gujarat river aggravates pollution caused by Surat weir: Letter to PM

By Our Representative
Facts have come to light suggesting a two-decades-old causeway-cum-weir in Surat on one of the biggest rivers of Gujarat, Tapi, considered suryaputri (sun’s daughter) in folklore, has caused unprecedented environmental pollution in South Gujarat, with some of the top industries in the region discharging pollutants into it.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has claimed to have begun a major mission to clean up India’s rivers, starting with Ganges and Yamuna, a top South Gujarat NGO has alleged that sewage waters are being released into the river, as it reaches Surat, which is Gujarat’s second biggest city, and beyond into the sea, which is just 30 km away.
The letter comes close on the heels of the Uttarakhand High Court seeking to declare Ganges and Yamuna as 'living entities', and Union home minister Rajnath Singh wanting a similar status for Narmada in Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
The NGO, Brackish Water Research Centre (GRWC), has alleged, “The situation has worsening by dumping of effluents from the giant industrial units like Kribhco, ONGC, Reliance, NTPC, Essar Steel and other giant ports like Adani, Shell, Essar bulk terminal, Gujarat Maritime Board’s Magdalla Port and jetties like L&T, Ultratech, Kribhco, ABG, Reliance and Niko.”
Saying that industrial waste water is being discharged through storm water drainage at nine difference places, GRWC reminds the Prime Minister that the Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) has served notices to the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) to stop the disposal of sewage water in to drinking water reservoir, but with no results.
Signed by BWRC president MSH Sheikh, the letter says, the polluted waters are causing production of dangerous worms, adding, the reservoir’s plight has worsened because there is virtually no flow of fresh water from Tapi, except for meeting industrial and SMC needs.
Covering Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, and flowing 228 km in Maharashtra before entering Gujarat, where it traverses a length of 214 km in Gujarat, the letter regrets, “Except monsoon season Tapi does not exist at all due several upstream dams and weirs.”
The dams are Hathnur (Maharashtra), Girna (Maharashtra) and Ukai (Gujarat), and weirs are Dahigam (Maharashtra) and Kakrapar (Gujarat). The last one, just ahead of the sea, is the weir in Surat.
Pointing out that things are likely to get aggravated because of number of small weirs being constructed on the river, BWRC suggests, the Surat weir was built to satisfy the needs of the industry without any environmental impact assessment study.
Built under the public-private partnership between the Hazira Area Industries Association (HAIA) and the Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC), BWRC says, “While SMC is utilizing the 1000+ MLD of water, rest of the water (500 MLD) is being utilized by giant industrial units Like Kribhco, ONGC, NTPC, Essar and Reliance.”
“There is zero discharge in the downstream of Tapi and estuary in summer and winter”, GRWC notes, adding, thanks to the weir, Tapi is unable to meet the sea, as a result of which “Tapi does not have brackish water area except during monsoon.”
“The migratory species of fishes would once come to breed in the area from fresh water and from marine water also throughout the year”, BWRC says, adding, “Tapi estuary has disappeared now in the downstream of weir. The estuary is totally saturated from pollutants. Ammonical nitrogen is very high. Fishing has totally stopped in the estuary.”

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