Monday, December 19, 2011

How many rivers & lakes in India? Nobody knows

Vibha Sharma/TNS

New Delhi, December 18
In yet another scathing indictment tabled in Parliament, the Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG) has reported that successive governments have made no effort to compile a list of water bodies in the country.

Neither the states nor the Union Environment Ministry, the report states, has a comprehensive list of major rivers, lakes and other water bodies. "The Environment Ministry has not yet prepared a nation-wide inventory of rivers and lakes," Parliament was informed.

The CAG's water audit has been prepared on the basis of wide ranging consultations with experts from India and abroad, stakeholders and public consultations. As many as 140 out of 1,079 pollution control projects on 24 rivers and 22 projects for conservation of lakes were scrutinised along with a study of administrative structures and activities related to water pollution in 25 states by the auditors.

Noting that neither the Centre nor the states had introduced any programme to prevent pollution of groundwater, the report observes: "They have also not addressed the concerns of pollution from agricultural sources."

Funds available for control of water pollution and restoration of wholesomeness of water are inadequate for the country as a whole and there are also instances of poor financial management, diversion of funds, non-disclosure of accrued interest, funds not utilised for implementation, funds parked in bank accounts and unspent balances not refunded, found the auditors.

The most polluting source for rivers is city sewage and industrial waste discharge. Such water, which ultimately ends up in households, is often highly contaminated and carries disease-causing microbes. Agricultural run-off is another major water pollutant as it contains fertilisers and pesticides.

With the exception of the Ganga in certain stretches, all other rivers test-checked by the auditors — including Sutlej, Yamuna, Gomti, Cauvery, Mandovi and Krishna — were found to have unacceptably high levels of organic pollution, low level of oxygen availability for aquatic organisms and bacteria, protozoa and viruses that have faecal-origin and cause illnesses.


Barely 10% of the country's waste water is treated. Millions of litres of sewage and industrial, agricultural waste flows into water bodies untreated Affected: 14 major rivers, 55 minor ones, several hundred smaller water bodies Extent of pollution and damage cannot be assessed without a detailed list of water bodies 'Water quality goals' and corresponding parameters could not, consequently, be developed

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