Maravoor Residents Affected due to Pollution of Phalguni River, Face Health Hazards

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Maravoor Residents Affected due to Pollution of Phalguni River, Face Health Hazards

Mangaluru: Environmental activist Shashidhar Shetty blamed industries along the downstream, including those in Baikampady Industrial Estate, which he said release untreated effluents and pollute the river, during a press meet held near the Phalguni River in Maravoor. Activists blame KSPCB and the district administration for their indifferent attitude towards river pollution

The stream flowing through the Baikampady Industrial Area that joins Phalguni downstream Malavoor vented dam has completely turned black with the effluents released by industries. Hundreds of fish were found dead and floating in the Phalguni (Gurupura) downstream the Malavoor vented dam, following the flow of industrial and domestic effluent into the river even as the administration has remained mute to the annual happening. The river water has turned black with industrial effluents starkly exposing the indifferent attitude of the Karnataka State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB), the district administration, and the Mangaluru City Corporation.

The Thokur Halla (stream) flowing through Baikampady Industrial Area that once had been nurturing agricultural activities in the surrounding villages throughout the year has become a cesspool with the continuous flow of industrial effluents. Despite repeated pleas to KSPCB, it has failed to rein in industrial units from letting out effluents into the natural water system. The problem has aggravated in recent years with many cooking oil refineries opening their units in the Industrial Area, he said. While the stream’s origin has gone inside the MRPL campus, encroachment has made the stream look just like a stormwater drainage, while the clear water has turned out completely black.

Water before Pollution……. ..Water after Pollution

Till about two years ago, the district administration and the KSPCB used to issue notices whenever activists raised their voices against industrial effluents flowing into the River and the pollution used to come under control. However, they have not acted this time while effluents were flowing into the river for over a month. Because of this, there was fish kill, he said.

Pollution of Thokur Halla has also affected vegetable cultivation and clam farming in and around Thokur village. As people have remained silent, the administration does not care about the flagrant violation of pollution norms. The administration blamed the remains of the coffer dam built during the construction of the Malavoor vented dam during a similar situation in 2017 summer of 2017. Though the coffer dam was removed, fish kill continues to recur as a result of reduced oxygen levels in the river water due to the flow of industrial and domestic effluents.

For the last several days, 60-year-old Leena Lobo, a resident of Maravoor village, has been experiencing severe itching on her hands and legs as she uses water from a well which is on the banks of the Phalguni. “Because of the chemical content in the water, I have been enduring this problem. The problem was acute to start with. Now itching is a bit bearable following medication,” Ms Lobo said while showing yellow rough patches on the lower portion of her two legs to a group of reporters during the press meet.

Ms Lobo is among the residents of Maravoor village that continue to be affected due to the pollution of the Phalguni. They are all living the downstream of Maravoor vented dam, which was constructed across the Phalguni in 2017. Ms Lobo has been living in the area for the last four decades. The team of reporters who visited the vented dam found the colour of the water downstream of the dam turning black. A foul smell emanated from the water that had traces of oil too.

Stella D’Souza, another old resident of the area, said it’s only in the last few days that the smell has increased. “We strongly suspect that it is due to untreated effluents joining the river. We cannot make use of water. We are forced to rely on the piped water supply that comes only for an hour a day,” she said. Homemaker Clavy D’Souza said that because of a drop in the dissolved oxygen level in the water, fish have been dying downstream. “Unlike in the past, we are unable to catch fish and shellfish as the riverbed has become deep due to sand extraction. Rice prepared using the water of the area turns stale too fast. Despite complaints, officials have not taken any action to redress our problem,” she said.

Titus D’Souza, yet another resident of Padushedde Kudru, adjoining the vented dam, told reporters that the death of fish and other aquatic species had been seen in the last week. “I have lived for over five decades in this area. I have never seen such deterioration in the condition of the water. The stench of the dead fish was becoming unbearable. The contamination of water was because of untreated effluents being let into the rivulets joining the Phalguni. The downstream gets polluted often. This time the situation has aggravated.”

Elvita, a resident of Thakur, said that the pollution of the river has made it difficult for residents living downstream to make use of water from the open wells, which is the only source of drinking water. “The water has a strange smell and an oil layer appears on the top as it is drawn from the well. We need to boil water and filter it before using it to drink.” Rice prepared using this water in the morning does not last till noon, she added.

On the other hand, many residents of Lower Kenjar, Thokur and Maravoor who are dependent on the river water, speaking about the sand mining in the area said “Due to regular Sand Mining the water is not potable. Illegal sand mining, which is being carried out excessively in the area, has resulted in an increase in the salinity of the water over the last year. Water in the wells has also turned salty,” they said. The contamination of water due to industrial effluents has worsened the problem. Environmental activist Shashidhar Shetty blamed industries downstream, including those in Baikampady Industrial Estate, which he said release untreated effluents and pollute the river. “Officials have failed to check it and this polluted water is entering the sea from different rivulets, including the one in Chitrapur.

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