Considered lifeline of Sambalpur town with at least 50,000 people depending on it, pollution is finally taking its toll on river Mahanadi.
With 86 per cent of the catchments and major tributaries of the river upstream located in industrial towns in the neighbouring States of Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh, the water carries considerable pollution load to the reservoir. But the story does not end here.
With restricted inflow of water from the Hirakud reservoir, the river has become a big drain for Sambalpur town resulting in the Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) in the river reaching an alarming stage.
As a result, it has been classified as category ‘D’ by the State Pollution Control Board (SPCB). Thus the water is unfit for even human use and threatens aquatic life due to the decline in BOD.
To make things worse, even the garbage of the town is dumped on the banks of the river and with waste water being released at 11 points, it is obvious for the water getting unfit for human use even for daily chores.
Sambalpur being an old town, the sewerage and drainage system is almost non-existent here. Unless treatment of waste water is done before being discharged into the river, there is little hope of the water quality being improved.
It was hoped that things would improve after implementation of the ` 300 crore project for treatment of sewerage and disposal of waste water which was supposed to be undertaken by Orissa Sewerage Board with finance from Japan Bank of International Cooperation. But, the project remains a distant dream.
The fact that SPCB has filed a criminal case in the Court of Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate, Sambalpur in October 2010 urging to take cognisance of negligence of Executive Officer of Sambalpur Municipality in handling solid waste speaks volumes about the future of the river. The SPCB had even withdrawn the solid waste management authorisation from the Sambalpur Municipality.
Sources in SPCB said consumption of Mahanadi water upto a stretch of five to six kilometres adjacent to Sambalpur town could lead to different skin diseases and stomach disorder.
Contacted, Convenor of Water Initiative, Odisha Ranjan Panda said about 100-150 million litres of untreated sewage is entering the river at many points. Until the sewarage treatment project is implemented, Sambalpur cannot hope for a clean Mahanadi.