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Is it time for Bhopal to deliver on water front?

Manoj Misra

Any city, big or small is in many ways an organic entity. It consumes (energy, water and food) and it discards (air, solid and liquid wastes). A ‘smart’ (popular euphemism) city would endeavour to consume smartly (no more than needed) and discard smartly (no pollution of atmosphere, land and surface or ground water).

Magnificent Upper Lake of Bhopal

It took me all 20 years to return in 2017 to Bhopal. Having spent all those years in Delhi and seen the national capital degenerate into an almost unmanageable human habitation I was glad to be back to a place where early morning air still smelt fresh and municipal supply water was potable without resort to an RO machine. So when Bhopal in 2018 was declared the second (after Indore) most clean (swatch) city in a national survey I started to look around and assess for myself if the designation was well placed.
Having spent more than a decade grappling with the issues of river Yamuna and water in Delhi, my attention in Bhopal obviously got attracted to the state of water and its management in Bhopal.

Upper lake and Bhopal skyline

Any city, big or small is in many ways an organic entity. It consumes (energy, water and food) and it discards (air, solid and liquid wastes). A ‘smart’ (popular euphemism) city would endeavour to consume smartly (no more than needed) and discard smartly (no pollution of atmosphere, land and surface or ground water). Let us see how Bhopal performs on just its water front?

A city while consuming fresh water produces broadly three kinds of waste (grey) water all with a definite end destination. Sources and scales of these are at households (including institutional spaces), city and industries level. Households produce sewage (bathroom and kitchen reject); City produces water rejected from its various components (market place, transportation, beautification works, water works and sanitation lines etc) and storm period run off; while Industries produce some sewage and lots of industrial effluents.

The end destination of each of these are individual septic tanks/soak pits in case of unsewered households; Storm water drains for storm period surface runoff and in case of a city with sanitation lines (in sewered areas) closed pipes, often underground leading to a sewage treatment facility. Industries would of course treat its effluent at an effluent treatment plant and recycle most of its treated water. An industry would ideally be a zero discharge unit.

Bhopal is not only waste water delinquent but visibly polluting too.

Against the above, what I found and it didn’t surprise me coming from Delhi that Bhopal is not only waste water delinquent but visibly polluting too. That the problem is still under the carpet is to my understanding because of the scale. City is still small enough for a full blown crisis situation to unfold itself. But this is also an opportunity to set things right while there still is time at hand.

Narmada pipeline

Narmada water appears to have provided a sense of plenty (except when pumping against gravity falters at times) to the city and its managers. A sense of plenty can make anyone including a city notoriously wasteful. A recipe for disaster is then not far off.

Reportedly Bhopal treats at its 7 sewage treatments plants only 17 percent (50 MLD) of all (300 MLD) the sewage that it produces. Most of the storm water drains in the city are today doubling up also as receiver of its solid waste (of all possible kinds) and liquid waste including untreated sewage and industrial effluents. Narmada water appears to have provided a sense of plenty (except when pumping against gravity falters at times) to the city and its managers. A sense of plenty can make anyone including a city notoriously wasteful. A recipe for disaster is then not far off.

True mark of a swatch and smart city would be its adequate and functional waste water (sewage and industrial) capabilities when its storm water drains carry nothing but only storm period runoff in nalas (drains) that are no longer termed ‘ganda’ (dirty) but are as they should be the welcome greenways of the city? Ready to take the challenge Bhopal!
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The author, Manoj Misra, is a former forest officer. He convenes the Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, a civil society consortium. Manoj Misra was the Executive Director of the PEACE Institute Charitable Trust and Convenor. He can be contacted at yamunajiye@gmail.com.

Dal Lake in Srinagar has bacteria that can degrade pesticides

Rayies Altaf

Srinagar: The Dal Lake and other wetlands of Kashmir are famous for their natural beauty and play a key environmental role. Now scientists have found that this eco-system also has certain bacteria that have a natural capacity to degrade pesticide residues, may be useful for bioremediation of degrading water bodies.

Researchers have reported the presence of naturally occurring chloropyrifos- resistant bacteria in the environments of Kashmir Valley. Chloropyrifos is an organophosphorous insecticide widely used in the region. The finding, according to the researchers, could lead to the use of microbial systems for removal of pollutants from contaminated. The study results have been published in journal Current Science.

In the study, the scientists have identified and isolated two different types of bacteria E.Coli (EC1) and Pseudomonas fluorescens (PF1) living in water bodies and soil respectively, which are highly efficient in biodegrading Chloropyrifos into simpler and non-toxic chemicals. These microorganisms use Chloropyrifos as their source of energy, growth and other metabolic activity. E.Coli occurs in the Dal Lake and Anchar in Srinagar and Pseudomonas fluorescens was found in soil samples of Ganderbal district adjoining Srinagar.

The soil and water samples for extracting and isolating E.Coli and Pseudomonas fluorescens were collected from different geographical locations in the Kashmir Valley which have a history of 5 to10 years of Chloropyrifos insecticidal spray. Soil samples were collected from fruit and vegetable orchards of Ganderbal and Anantnag districts of valley, while water samples were collected from Dal and Anchar lakes as both these water bodies are said to be polluted with toxic residues.

The maximum number of chloropyrifos degrading E.Coli and Pseudomonas fluorescens bacteria were found in Dal Lake and Ganderbal soil respectively, because of incessant use of this chemical in these areas. Besides, higher chloropyrifos pesticide residual levels have been reported in both fish as well as human blood samples of local inhabitants of Dal Lake.

“At a time when pesticide presence in the environment poses a big health and environmental risk in the valley, this study has both policy and practical implications as it opens up possibilities of exploring environment friendly options for tackling pesticide pollution and other such related problems both in the valley as well as elsewhere,” commented Dr Abdul Haseeb Shah, research scientist at Department of Bio-resources, University of Kashmir, while speaking to India Science Wire.

Kashmir valley is widely known for its fruit variety such as apples, pears, almonds, walnuts, peaches and plums. There is rampant use of insecticides and pesticides such as chloropyrifos in the valley to save crops from fungal diseases and insects.

The research team included Imtiyaz Murtaza, Bushra, Sageera Showkat, Omi Laila, Sumra Majid and Neyiaz A. Dar (Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology); Shah Ubaid-Ullah (Central University of Kashmir); Mukhtar Ahmad (RCRQ Laboratory, SKUAST-K) and Girish Sharma (Amity University, Noida). (Indian Science Wire)

Twitter handle: @rayies_sts

There is urgent need to save the oceans: John Kerry

Public Event on Oceans in Beijing, China

Illegal fishing-representative photo, courtesy seafoodwatch,org
Illegal fishing-representative photo, courtesy seafoodwatch,org

Beijing: US Secretary of State John Kerry Monday (June 6) said that there is urgent need to save the oceans.

Delivering his remarks at the Public Event on Oceans here, Kerry went on to emphasise that the leaders of two of the largest economies in the world, the U.S. and China, are not just thinking about terrorism and nuclear weapons and various relationships, but they’re thinking about the ocean.”

Kerry said both countries recognize the urgent need to safeguard the marine resources. Both countries have to play a leading role in addressing various threats to the ocean, particularly the threat of acidification – which comes from what we put up in the atmosphere, and then drops down in rain or in deposits – in overfishing, and pollution of various kinds.

The same carbon pollution that drives climate change is also altering – actually acidifying the ocean, Kerry said adding it changes the basic chemistry of the ocean at a rate 10 times faster than at any other point in human history that we have measured. What happens with the acidification is the CO2 that goes into the water actually turns into carbonic acid. And that carbonic acid can destroy shell-packed entities like clams or fish, mollusks and so forth. Over time, we’re noticing that even where there’s a higher acidity, you have smaller and smaller clams depending on the level of acidity.

Unsustainable fishing

Drawing further attention to the problem of acidification, Kerry said it is changing coral reefs and habitats of the fish. One-third of all the major fisheries of the world are overfished and most of the rest are being harvested right at the top level of what they are able to sustain, which is why it is unsustainable fishing that is taking place.

Expressing serious concern, Kerry pointed out that illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing is taking place in vast expanses of the ocean, that is the high seas. Illegal fishing or pirate fishing, has skyrocketed in its levels so that millions of fish – millions of tons of fish are being taken out of the ocean. Much of it is what you call bycatch, so it just gets thrown overboard for the fish that they’re particularly looking for, and it is a slow attrition – killing, if you will – of the ecosystem itself. Pollution, Kerry said, is choking our waters in many parts of the world. In America, for instance, coming out of the various rivers that feed into the Mississippi River – there are 31 states that feed into one river. But the agricultural runoff of nitrates and chemicals and gasoline from gas stations and so forth pours into the rivers, pours out, empties into the Gulf of Mexico, and there’s a 5,000-square-mile area that is a dead zone. There are now well over 400 dead zones around the world where nothing will live because there’s no oxygen, there’s no capacity for life.

Kerry also pointed out that we are dumping into the oceans millions of tons of plastic that entangles creatures, harms habitat, and it breaks down very slowly. And as it breaks down, it is ingested by marine mammals and fish. Experts point out that by 2050 there may well be more plastic in the ocean than fish.

Kerry underscored the urgent need to save the oceans by asserting that none can live without it. Not only does it play a vital role in generating oxygen – about half the oxygen that human beings use comes from the ocean. Not only does it play a vital role storing carbon dioxide – it’s a huge storage tank for the carbon dioxide that could go up into the atmosphere and warm the Earth at a much faster rate, but it goes into the ocean where it’s stored. It also regulates our climate. It is a key pillar of the global economy. Literally hundreds of millions of people make a living through ocean-related industries, and trillions of dollars in cargo are transported across the ocean every single day, he added.

Action Plan

There is an Ocean Conference in September of this year – it will be the third conference in order to raise people’s consciousness but also to get countries to commit to actions that will help to preserve the ocean. Last conference was held in Washington. On that occasion, $4 billion were committed in pledges to go to efforts to help save the oceans, and about 6 million square kilometers of ocean was set aside as marine protected areas, and this year the plan is to add substantially to that record.

The US and China

Kerry said that the US and China are the two largest economies and also two of the world’s top fishing nations. The two countries are also two of the global leaders on ocean science. He said just as we’ve been able to do on climate change, the United States and China have a huge ability to have the same impact on ocean conservation provided that both countries combine their efforts and policies.

Kerry expressed the hope that China will use the September conference to announce new commitments and initiatives to support sustainable fisheries, to create marine protected areas, to reduce ocean pollution, and to combat climate change.

Even as we look ahead to the Conferenece this fall, Kerry went on to observe:”we are not waiting until then to take action. This is the second consecutive year that we have included a separate discussion on ocean issues as part of the Security and Economic Dialogue that we are engaged in for these two days here in Beijing.”

Drawing attention to progress being made, Kerry remarked:

“we have agreed to set up sister marine protected areas in places like the Hainan Sanya Coral Reef and the National Marine Sanctuary of American Samoa and elsewhere to exchange best practices on MPA science, monitoring, and management. We’ve also identified Xiamen and Weihai and San Francisco and New York to serve as partner cities, helping us to learn from each other in such areas of importance like urban waste collection and recycling, so that we can reduce the flow of garbage and pollutants that go from our shores directly into the ocean.

In addition, China and the United States both support the establishment of a marine protected area in Antarctica’s Ross Sea, one of the world’s last remaining pristine marine environments. And we’re going to be working together to realize this goal as rapidly as we can.

And together we’ve also agreed to develop a process to exchange detailed information on seafood products so that we can better keep illegally obtained fish from making it to the market, and we are working jointly with other governments to complete a legally binding agreement to prevent unregulated commercial fishing in the high seas of the central Arctic Ocean.”