Water hyacinth is a symptom and not the problem, says environmentalist Parineeta Dandekar.
“Hyacinth is formed when nitrate and phosphate increases in river water. The real problem lies in the tremendous pollution in the river. It is sad that after spending crores of rupees on cleaning up the rivers, the administration has not managed to address this problem,” she says.
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“Despite the order of Krishna Water Dispute Tribunal, we have not been able to release water from the dams in the rivers and let them flow. The water in the rivers of Pune is nothing but concentrated sewage of the city. It cannot support flora and fauna. We have already lost our bird and fish diversity. We take pride in calling Pune as the ‘Smart City’ but have not taken any step towards tackling this problem. The water hyacinth can go only if we control water pollution and allow the rivers to flow,” says Dandekar.
Another environmentalist Mandar Kulkarni attributes the problem to multiple sources. Due to industrialization, he says, the presence of heavy metal in water is increasing. Encroachment is another reason he cites. “People are washing clothes in the river, which again creates a problem,” says Kulkarni, adding that due to presence of heavy metal and hyacinth, sunlight cannot enter the water and that hampers growth and life of algae and different water vegetation. Besides, the life of various amphibians who breed on the riverside also gets affected. “If there is no life in water, the entire food chain is disturbed. The birds, who visit the water bodies for feed, do not find anything,” explains Kulkarni.
City-based environment enthusiast and bird watcher, Sachin Dhamane, who frequently visits water bodies for bird watching, especially Pashan Lake, says the problem of water hyacinth has been on the rise and has increased significantly over the past 8-10 years. “Summer season is the ideal time to clean the water bodies but I guess the administration has been shying away from this job. A few days ago, when I visited Pashan Lake, I found the carcass of a dead pig at the end of the lake, where the botanical garden has been built. As an avid bird watcher, I have noticed that the population of not just migratory birds but also native birds has reduced,” says Dhamane.
Botanist Shrikant Inghalikar says the civic bodies have woken up to the problem late. “This is the wrong time to react when the water hyacinth and the water lettuce have already gained grounds in the water. They should have ideally started the cleaning up activity in the month of October,” he says.
According to Inghalikar, the problem is not just limited to Pune or the state or the country but in every part of the world. “I have been studying it in great depth. There is presence of water hyacinth and pistia or water lettuce wherever there is stagnant water. The moment it starts, it should be removed as it completely prevents water from getting any oxygen or sunlight, which in turn is harmful for all the water bodies, the fish and other water plants beneath. This usually starts post-monsoon and it should be removed immediately or else it will spread rapidly,” he says.