Ulhas river has turned into a drain: Residents

Mumbai : 5 April, 2019 (Hindustan Times ) 

In 2017, SC asked state chief secretary to disburse ₹100cr to restore Ulhas and Waldhuni rivers, but nothing has been done

KALYAN: The pollution level in Ulhas river, which supplies drinking water, has been increasing every year.

A series of reports by NGO Vanashakti for Save Ulhas River project show that the pollution level is 50 times higher than the permissible limits since 2012.

As per the findings by the NGO, the chemical oxygen demand (COD) level in the Ulhas river water was reported as 3500 mg/ltr while it should be 250 mg/ ltr.

“The river’s pollution level has risen to 50 times more in the past five years. The pollution is increasing but the high COD level has been more or less constant since 2012,”said Ashwin Aghor, senior conservation officer, Vanashakti.

Despite directions from the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and Supreme Court (SC), the Ulhas river, which is a major source of drinking water, continues to be polluted because of poor sewage management and industrial waste discharged from industries in Kalyan-Dombivli, Ulhasnagar, Ambernath and Badlapur.

A river has its origin in pristine streams flowing from the Western ghats at Rajmachi near Lonavala, but it ends as a stinky creek into the Arabian Sea.

The NGT slapped a fine of Rs100 crore on civic bodies on these cities and industries in July 2015.

The order was stayed by the Bombay high court but was lifted by the SC in April 2016 after NGO Vanashakti filed a special leave petition challenging the HC’s decision.

In November 2017, the SC directed the state’s chief secretary to give an undertaking to disburse Rs100 crore for restoration of Ulhas and Waldhuni rivers.

The then chief secretary, Sumit Mullick, gave an undertaking that the sum will be released in two parts and restoration work will begin.

In November 2017, the state government released Rs50crore for Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC), Rs35 crore for Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation (UMC), Rs10 crore for Ambernath Municipal Council (AMC) and Rs5 crore for Kulgaon Badlapur Municipal Council (KBMC).

The funds were released for the restoration of the rivers.

The Ulhas river flows through Pune, Raigad and Thane districts. It crosses Khandala valley and interior Karjat, Bhivpuri, Neral, Badlapur, Ambernath, Ulhasnagar, Shahad, Kalyan and Dombivli before joining the Vasai creek and flowing into the Arabian Sea.

The pollution of the 122-kmlong water body starts at Badlapur, Ambernath and Ulhasnagar where industrial wastes is released into the Waldhuni river which meets the Ulhas river. After it crosses Kalyan, the water is polluted by sewage waste. The water is lifted by the civic bodies and treated before being supplied as drinking water to lakhs of residents.

Local residents said the river is now a drain. “The river resembles a drain. The water stinks. The colour keeps changing to red, green and black. We don’t even remember the actual colour of the river,” said Mohan Lalwani, 70, a resident of Netaji Chowk in Ulhasnagar.

In KDMC area, none of the eight major nullahs has been connected to sewage treatment plants, according to a recent status-check by NGO Vanashakti in February.

The NGO filed a petition in 2012 with the National Green Tribunal to direct the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) to shut all polluting industries discharging untreated effluents into the Ulhas river. RAPPED BY APEX COURT On February 28, the Supreme Court took the Kalyan-Dombivli Municipal Corporation (KDMC), Ulhasnagar Municipal Corporation (UMC), Kulgaon Badlapur Municipal Council (KBMC) to task for not complying with their promise to build sewage treatment plants for the nullahs.

“The judges passed strictures against the civic bodies for their failure to stick to the deadline despite the undertaking by the chief secretary of Maharashtra,” said Aghor

The UMC has built a pumping house for Khemani nullah, a major pollutant of Ulhas river. The pumping house has been functional for the past eight months. A total of 10 mld of sewage from the 3-4 km-long Khemani nullah is filtered at the pumping house. The plant can treat 16 mld of sewage.

Activists claimed that there is another nullah flowing from the nearby Mharal village which is polluting the Ulhas river.

“Earlier when Khemani nullah was polluting the river, we had complained about it and a pumping house was set up to treat the nullah water. Later, we found another nullah flowing directly into the river and causing pollution. There is a need to have proper sewage treatment plant to treat nullah waters,” said Shashikant Dayma, founder of Waldhuni Biradari, NGO.

The jeans wash units, which were polluting the Ulhas river, were shut one and half years ago.

“All jeans washing units in Ulhasnagar are shut. Only the sewage lines are polluting the river, “said Dayma.

The Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) in Ambernath had planned to set up a 17.5-km-long closed pipeline from Ambernath forest naka to Kalyan creek to ensure treated effluents pass through the pipeline. The project is still pending.

The Kulgaon Badlapur Municipal Corporation (KBMC) had not made any effort to curb pollution, said activists. “The Badlapur Corporation has not taken any initiative in this case so far,” said Dayma.

 

WHAT ARE CIVIC BODIES DOING AFTER BEING PULLED UP

Ulhas river near Mohane pumping house in Kalyan is filled with water hyacinth. The civic bodies have failed to take steps to preserve the river.

 

 

 

KALYAN-DOMBIVLI MUNICIPAL CORPORATION (KDMC)

“We have managed to divert three of the eight nullahs and but are yet to connect them to STPs. The water will soon be treated at the STPs,” said Chandrakant Kolte, hydraulic engineer, KDMC.

 Effluents flow into Waldhuni river at Shantinagar in Ulhasnagar.

As per KDMC records, at least 216 mld of sewage waste is generated in Kalyan-Dombivli area and the civic body has the capacity of treating 123 mld of sewage waste at its five STPs.

The STPs are at Adharwadi in Kalyan (West), Titwala (East), Titwala (West), Barave in Kalyan (West), Chinchpada in Kalyan (East). The civic body has plans to build three more STPs and upgrade the existing STPs which will help treat another 85 mld of sewage waste.

“Five nullahs will be diverted in two months. The diversion of nullahs got delayed due to the tender process involved in it and also waiting for the approval from standing committee and general body,” added Kolte.

The civic body will spend ~1.32 crore for the diversion of eight nullahs.

ULHASNAGAR MUNICIPAL CORPORATION (UMC)

“The civic body has managed to pump water from Khemani nullah and release it to Ambika Nagar nullah. This has helped reduce pollution in Khemani nullah. We have plans to build three STPs at Shantinagar and one at Vadolgaon and a pumping house at Ambika Nagar nullah from where the water will be pumped and sent to the STP,” said an UMC official, who did not wish to be named. There is no STP in Ulhasnagar at present.  

A sewage treatment plant built near Adharwadi dumping ground in Kalyan (West).

“The three new STP will have a capacity to treat 80 mld of sewage. A total of 120 mld of sewage water in generated in UMC area,” added the officer.