The slow poisoning of the Baitarani river in Odisha

The Baitarani, Odisha (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
The Baitarani, Odisha (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

River basins in India have been found to be highly vulnerable to contamination. Recent evidence shows that a large number of water sources including rivers, lakes and surface water in India are polluted due to untreated sewage, agricultural runoff and most importantly, due to unregulated industries. This river contamination has been found to lead to a range of health hazards and an increasing risk to the population in the country.

The impact of mining on water quality

The paper titled 'Evaluation of water quality of local streams and Baitarani river in Joda area of Odisha, India' published in the International Journal of Current Research, presents the findings of a study that assessed the water quality of local streams like Jalpa Nadi, Balda Nala, Dalko Nala and the Baitarani river in the Joda area of Keonjhar district of Odisha from the point of view of drinking and irrigation. Joda is a part of the Baitarani river basin of Keonjhar district of Odisha, which is rich in mineral resources and has deposits of iron and manganese.

A large number of mining industries exist in this area, which is dominated by tribal populations. These industries have led to considerable degradation of water resources in the area. In spite of the dependence of a large number of people on the water resources in the area, there are no studies that have tried to assess the extent of contamination of the water resources and their impact on populations in the area.

Findings of the study

The study found that:

  • all the water samples in the area were unfit for human consumption in terms of water quality index and were contaminated with coliforms including faecal coliform bacteria;
  • the water was found to be acidic especially during the post-monsoon period and alkaline in most of the places during the monsoon and pre-monsoon period; and
  • the water quality was poor with low Dissolved Oxygen and high Biological Oxygen Demand values along with high turbidity, TSS and high values for iron (Fe) and chromium (Cr) indicative of poor quality of water.

Causes for poor water quality include:

  • low volume of water, low flow condition, densely populated catchment areas and flowing of streams in the close proximity of various iron and manganese mines;
  • release of domestic sewage, disposal of  garbage, soil erosion, mines run off and anthropogenic activities associated with recreational use of the streams and the rivers increased the risk of water contamination; and
  • open defecation among the local people was one of the most important factors for the degradation of water quality in this area.

The study concluded by recommending the need for:

  • proper management to check the disposal of waste into the streams and rivers,
  • controlling and monitoring human activities near the water sources,
  • increasing public awareness to prevent contamination of rivers and streams, and
  • prevention of deforestation to check soil erosion.

Please download a copy of the paper below.