Water pollution is a key problem in India and in the world as a whole. In India, the problem is prevalent as almost all of the water bodies are polluted. The percentage of pollutants in most of the rivers is beyond recommended levels. The key factor that is blamed for the high level of water pollution in the country is the discharge of untreated sewage into rivers and other water bodies. Through this study, it has been established that the reasons behind the high rates of discharge include low sewage treatment capacities; lack of proper toilets and sanitation facilities and laxity in the environmental regulation laws with regards to water pollution. Apart from the untreated sewage, other factors such as pharmaceutical wastes and agricultural wastes also contribute to water pollution.
The impacts associated with water pollution have been found to include health impacts such as the prevalence of diarrheal diseases, economic costs incurred in treatment of these diseases and abatement of industrially caused water pollution. The costs incurred through biodiversity loss in water bodies as a result of pharmaceutical wastes are also identified. In order to reduce the impacts of water pollution, the government has put in place policies such as tax abatement for the implementation of water pollution prevention strategies and sanitation subsidy. However, it is clear that policy alone is not sufficient for reducing water pollution in India. It is therefore necessary that other measures such as public sensitization and construction of sewage treatment facilities be taken to prevent water pollution and reduce its impacts.
Water Pollution in India
The prevalence of water pollution in the world today is very high. The increase in population across the world has led to increase in the contamination of water sources through release of sewage and other materials. Agricultural and pharmaceutical practices also contribute to the increased water pollution. While the entire world faces some risks for infection due to water contamination, the effect is felt more strongly in the developing nations. This is because the ineffective treatment methods and capacities make it difficult to treat all the sewage from all households. As such, most of the sewage is deposited in water bodies either intentionally or unintentionally. The impacts of contamination on water are diverse. The most common across the world is the spread of water borne infectious diseases which are mainly diarrheal in nature. Kjellstrom et al (2006) cite infectious diseases; food hygiene and poor sanitation in communities are cyclic cause and effect factors for water pollution. Other impacts associated with water pollution include economic impacts incurred in health restoration, and wage loss due to reduced man hours. In addition to this, the pollution of water bodies such as river and lakes also results in the change of the aquatic ecosystem which makes it unfavorable for the survival of various aquatic plants and animals.
In India, the effects of water pollution are most intense due to the degree of pollution that is prevalent in the country. For instance, it is reported that water pollution occurs in almost all the rivers in India. Of particular concern are the rivers around cities and major towns in India. Despite the diverse causes of water pollution in existence today, pollution of water sources in India is mainly blamed on the deposition of untreated sewage into water bodies. The infrastructure available for the treatment of sewage in India is limited in capacity. In addition to this, the available ones are not effectively maintained to handle the treatment of large volumes of sewage that are released every day. This makes water pollution one of the key social problems in the country. The population of the country does not make things easier either since the high population only means greater volumes of sewage are generated on a daily basis. Most of the cities in India do not have sufficient capacity for the treatment of sewage. Apart from this, other factors that contribute to the water pollution menace in India are the agricultural and pharmaceutical wastes that are generated in the country.
The impacts of water pollution are heavily felt in India particularly through economic and health losses. This has been the driving force behind many studies carried out on the status of water pollution in India. While many studies focus on the causes of water pollution and the variations in pollution trends across rives in India, only a few studies have offered alternative recommendations that the government has given for addressing the menace of water pollution. To further highlight the intensity of the problem, most of the studies focus on single cause of water pollution in India. One of the subjects that have received immense attention with regards to this subject is water pollution due agricultural wastes. In addition to this, the policy implications of preventing water pollution through the implementation of various government policies are rarely discussed. Because of this gap in information availability, this composition addresses the multifaceted problem of water pollution in India. In reference to this, the composition is based on the thesis that water pollution is a societal problem in India and can only be solved through infrastructural expansion. The information provided herein will be based on a review of a diverse range of past literature. The study will focus on the causes of water pollution in India, the impacts of the phenomenon and the possible actions to help reduce the level and impacts of water pollution in India.
Causes of Water Pollution in India
Despite the availability of many rivers in India, most of the rivers are laden with pollutants, especially untreated sewage. The leading bearers of the burden are the Ganges and the river Yamuna. These two rivers serve the biggest and most populated metropolis in the country. However, the towns themselves have no effective systems for the treatment of untreated sewage. According to several studies, untreated sewage is the greatest contributor to water pollution in India. This is because the country’s population is large and thus the production of sewage is also high. According to a research carried out by Murty and Kumar (2011), more than 7 percent of India’s ground water is contaminated. The contamination is attributed to toxic substances, biological, inorganic and organic substances. The pollution of this amount of water is also cited by other authors such as Presse (2013). Presse asserts that the pollution of most of India’s ground water results from the uncontrolled flow of sewage into the water bodies. With more than 80 percent of the country’s sewage being released into water bodies, it is expectable than most of the water bodies will be polluted.
Singare et al (2012) also mention sewage discharge as a major contributor to water pollution in India. From the study by Singare et al, approximately 40,000 million liters of sewage are produced in India on a daily basis. Out of this, only 12,000 liters are treated. This means that the difference between the generated and the treated sewage is discharged into water bodies. This amount of sewage on a daily basis results in severe pollution of various water bodies in the country. In line with this finding, Murty et al (1999) also explains that the gap between the generated and the treated sewage in the country is responsible for the high amounts of discharge into water bodies. Various factors are mentioned by different authors for enhancing this gap. For instance, Presse (2013) explains that the rapid rate of urban development and lack of awareness about the effects of sewage discharge into water bodies are the factors that lead to this gap. In addition to this, the lack of strong environmental regulation laws also makes it difficult to enforce the environmental water standards across the country (Central Pollution Control Board, 2004). Greenstone and Hanna posit that while air pollution regulation measures are sufficiently strong in India, the same cannot be said for water pollution regulations (2011). This has led to laxity in the implementation of measures to curb water pollution.
Another factor blamed for the discharge of untreated sewage into water bodies is the lack of sanitation facilities and toilets which creates room for open defecation in the country. When done close to water bodies, the sewage materials are carried off by ground water and deposited into water bodies. Due to the already high level of pollution in the water bodies, the receiving rivers have inadequate capacity for the dilution of the incoming wastes (Murty et al., 1999). This increases the percentage of pollution in the bodies hence making it an even greater menace. Singare et al (2012) also explain how the lack of sufficient capacity for sewage treatment contributes to water pollution. From their work, the authors show that the country has a limited supply of sewage treatment facilities. Among the more than 29 cities in the country, 26 do not have fully operational sewage treatment facilities (Murty & Kumar, 2011). This implies that most of the sewage generated will be passed into water bodies. In the same note, the available facilities are not fully functional due to various reasons. One of the major reasons for this lack of functionality is connected to poor management, lack of sufficient skills in the facility management and lack of maintenance of those facilities (Singare et al., 2012). These factors however apply mostly to government run sewage treatment facilities.
The river Ganges bears the brunt of most of the water pollution. As at 1995, it was reported that the river received raw sewage and human bodies that were partially cremated from 114 of the Indian cities (Singare et al., 2012). The same river water that received these wastes is the major source of water for most of India’s poor generation. This can clearly indicate the expected outcomes in terms of health. Other rivers in India also face the same level of pollution on a yearly basis. While this is only from the untreated sewage sources, there are other practices that are also mentioned to be leading to water pollution. Other factors that have been blamed for increased water pollution in India include the discharge of pharmaceutical wastes and agricultural chemicals into water bodies. Agricultural impacts have been discussed extensively by various authors.
Presse (2013) asserts that in most of the rivers in India, it is reported that the Nitrate levels are higher than recommended levels. This is said to be due to the leaching of sewage and agricultural wastes from the underground water. Murty et al also mention agricultural materials such as fertilizer extracts which are carried by run off as sources of pollution in rivers in India (1999). According to Agrawal (1999), high nitrate content is prevalent in ground water in India throughout the year due to agricultural materials that are diffused from the underground water. In addition to this, there is a mention of the impacts of silt deposition on the water bodies. From a report by Brainerd and Menon, chemicals that are present in fertilizers such as nitrates and phosphorus also impact water pollution (2012). From these findings, it is clear that agricultural matter could be the second highest contributor to water pollution compared to other sources. Alternatively, this could also mean that agricultural pollutants have received greater attention than other causes of water pollution in India.
Apart from the untreated sewage and agricultural wastes, Changing Markets and Ecostorm describe the impacts of the pharmaceutical industry on water pollution (2016). The pharmaceutical industry in India is described as expanding to include manufacturing companies with origins across the world. The expansion of this industry implies that many toxic substances which include effluents, API laden materials and antibiotics are prevalent in pharmaceutical industries (Changing Markets Ecostorm, 2016). Most of the world’s drugs are manufactured in India making the range of pollutants from the industry even wider. The pollutants have substantial effects on water bodies since some of them are capable of initiating the growth of pathogenic bacteria. The waters into which the industry releases some of the pollutants such as Yamuna River and Ganges are utilized for various domestic purposes increasing the risk of interaction with the pollutants. Other industrial sectors are also blamed for increased water pollution in India. For instance, Ebenstein (2012) asserts that the increase in industrialization also leads to increased water pollution in the country. This assertion is supported by Changing Markets and Ecostorm (2016) and Kjellstrom et al (2006).
Impacts of Water Pollution
While the impacts of water pollution are global, the observation in India indicates more severe impacts due to the severity of the pollution in the country. From impacts on health to economic destabilization, the effects that water pollution has in the society are far reaching. Dasgupta (2004) relates water pollution to the prevalence of various diarrheal diseases. In India, the author argues that diarrheal diseases have become endemic due to the consumption of polluted water. Most of the diarrheal diseases such as amoebic dysentery are transmitted through contact with infected fecal matter. This is prevalent in India as the water is polluted through untreated sewage then used by others for domestic purposes such as cooking and washing (Agrawal et al., 2010). Additionally, Kjellstrom and other also describe the impacts of water pollution on aspects such as poor sanitation and food hygiene (2006). Without clean water it is virtually impossible to maintain hygienic conditions as the water itself contaminates instead of cleaning.
Murty et al (1999) reported that water pollution causes the death of approximately 1.5 million children aged below five years every year. This is due to the infectious diseases that affect the children. On the other hand, there is also the prevalent loss of the life years adjusted for disabilities in adults. In the economic context, the impacts associated with water pollution are also great. For instance, in every year, the water pollution abatement costs incurred comprise of up to 2.5 percent of the total GDP due to industrialization (Murty et al., 1999). Comparing this cost to the costs that could be incurred in preventing industrial pollution, abatement costs are much higher. At the individual level the economic costs are also enormous since treatment costs have to be incurred once one if affected by any of the diseases associated with water pollution. Moreover, the wage loss during sickness is also significant to the sick patients who may need to support their families.
Similarly, agricultural and pharmaceutical wastes also have substantial impacts through water pollution. The nitrate and nitrites that pollute the water from agricultural wastes Brainerd and Menon (2012) found out during their research that children conceived during months where there were high levels of fertilizer chemicals in water bodies were likely to undergo neonatal death or to experience child mortality. Changing Markets and Ecostorm also report the impacts of agricultural wastes on water bodies through nitrates and nitrites. These chemicals are blamed for the modification of physico-chemical properties of aquatic systems which can result in the loss of biodiversity (Singare et al., 2012). The pharmaceutical wastes deposited in water bodies have various impacts such as the feminization of aquatic animals. Antibiotics carried in water as a result of pollution results in resistance creation hence difficulty in treatment in case of infections (Changing Markets and Ecostorm, 2016).
Government Actions against Water Pollution
With increase in the levels of water pollution in India, Murty and Kumar report that there has also been significant increase in monitoring and control efforts (2011). For instance, the Central Pollution Control Board in India describes the measures that have been taken by Indian government to curb pollution and it impacts (2008). The major methods that have been used by the government involve changes in policy. Through provision of rebates for the implementation of water pollution control measures in industries, the government aims at reducing water pollution by industrial wastes. Industries producing pollutant effluents are encouraged to treat their effluents to level s that conform to the required standards for water bodies prior to discharge into rivers. Additionally, Rajaram and Das (2008) mention the introduction of industrial pollution discharge fee for companies that do not treat their effluents. The enactment of this policy by the government is aimed at encouraging companies to treat their wastes. To address the issue of individual hygiene, the government has put in place measures to provide subsidized sanitation for home use. This will help curb pollution since it has been found that lack of toilets and appropriate sanitation services makes open defecation the only solution to citizens. Although these measures are put in place through good will, Reddy and Behera (2006) argue that policy alone may not be sufficient for controlling water pollution in India.
The Menace of water pollution poses a significant challenge to the Indian community. It is reported that the level of water pollution in India in 2015 was at least twice the level of pollution in 2010. With this rate of increase, it is necessary to make quick decisions regarding the most relevant action with regards to controlling water pollution. Making informed decisions on water pollution requires an understanding of the factors that result in water pollution and directing any potential corrective actions towards the resolution of the key problems in India. The study has managed to show that the greatest contribution to water pollution in India is the discharge of untreated sewage into water bodies. However, a deeper analysis into this finding clearly recognizes some of the pertinent issues with regards to sewage discharge. For instance, the lack of proper sanitation in India is one of the factors related to untreated sewage discharge into water bodies. Addressing this problem could help to reduce the rate of open defecation in the country hence help to curb water pollution. The government’s strategy to subsidize sanitation facilities can help with regards to this matter.
Apart from this, the discharge of raw sewage into the water bodies is linked to the lack of treatment capacity for all the sewage generated per day. It is therefore important to note that whatever policy changes made in the country will have no positive impact on water pollution unless the root cause of the problem is identified and dealt with. Construction of more sewage treatment facilities, maintenance of the existing ones and proper management can help to address this issue. Through these actions, the capacity for sewage treatment could be enhanced hence reducing the gap between the generated and the treated sewage in India. Greater implementation of environmental regulation laws with regards to water pollution is also a possible detractor of water pollution in Indian Rivers.
The impacts of water pollution through pharmaceutical products are deep. As mentioned earlier, these products are laden with chemicals which lead to various impacts on water animals such as fishes as well as on human bodies. According to the research carried out by Changing Markets and Ecostorm, the impacts of pharmaceutical wastes on the water bodies include changing the aquatic ecosystem, feminization of aquatic animals and other negative effects on humans. The changing of aquatic environments occurs due to the chemical compositions of the wastes discharged into the waters. Some of the wastes create a great imbalance in the water systems which results in the death of some of the aquatic species. In some instances, some of the dead species may be fish. Moreover, some of these chemicals also sterilize the fishes in the aquatic bodies. Even though the economic impacts of such pollution effects are not clearly described in any of the reviewed literature, it is clear that destabilization of water bodies as a result of pollution results in reduced access to good food. The sterilization of fish means that the population of fish reduces and thus the income that can be generated through fishing activities also reduces. The most negative impact associated with the pharmaceutical products with regards to water pollution is their ability to spread some of the antibiotic factors and chemicals into these bodies. Continuous consumption of water containing antibiotics by humans reinforces the resistance of bacteria to those antibiotics (Changing Markets and Ecostorm, 2016). This therefore means that with this pollution, there is potential for reduced response to antibiotics in case of actual sickness, leading to lower life expectancy among the exposed citizens.
Although the government has enacted some policies to help avert water pollution and its effects, it is clear that a lot still needs to be done. The argument posited by Agrawal et al (2010) and Reddy and Behera (2006) that policies alone cannot regulate water pollution is hence true. This menace requires more stringent measures to ensure that communities as well as the government takes part in the reduction of water pollution in India.
The research paper has been conclusive about the condition of water pollution in India. From the study, it can clearly be ascertained that water pollution in India is caused mainly by the discharge of untreated sewage into water bodies. The impacts of water pollution in the country have also been described in sufficient details as well as the actions of the government with regards to water pollution control. However, there is still need for further research on ways through which the already pertinent problem can be addressed more effectively. Focus on single subjects in water pollution does not provide sufficient information on the status of the phenomenon. It is thus necessary for future studies to be structured around diverse aspects of water pollution.
In terms of abatement methods, the government’s efforts to counter the menace show that there is commitment to this cause. Consequently, it is recommended that instead of merely providing policies, the government should spend more time in creating awareness of the problem associated with sanitation malpractice; construct more facilities for the treatment of sewage and focus more on ma king environmental regulations more stringent for water pollution prevention.
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