In a policy shift, the state government has decided to tackle water pollution, including river cleaning, through increased investments in sewage treatment, along with solid waste management. In the past, the focus was on untreated industrial effluents alone.
The government is also considering public-private partnerships to raise funds for river cleaning along with mega infra or industrial projects.
Overseas companies are ready to give soft loans at lower interest to be repaid over 30-40 years.
The draft proposal for new environmental pollution points to an urgency to address the problems of untreated sewage and solid waste, which is playing havoc along the state’s 720-km coastal stretch.
There are 49 polluted river stretches out of a total 302, which are worst polluted.
They include Godavari, Tapi, Wardha-Wainganga, Krishna, Panchganga, Koyana, Mula, Mutha and Pravara basins, among others.
The study commissioned by the state government shows 45 to 48 per cent rapid urbanisation is integral to the pollution of major river basins, including Godavari and Krishna. The untreated sewage from the cities/towns are routed to the water sources, including rivers.
The National River Conservative Plan of the Centre is working on river-cleaning projects across 150 stretches in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Assam and other states.
Adopting a two-pronged strategy to tackle the pollution menace, the Ministry of Urban Development, along with local municipal corporations, are working on projects with a 2017 deadline to make the state free of open defecation.
The Centre and the state’s ambitious Smart Cities project too has given impetus on sewage and solid waste management.
The state has initiated a step by taking up river cleaning in Chandrabhaga in the pilgrimage town Pandharpur by 2022. However, there is greater pressure to take up Godavari river cleaning from Nashik. “Until 2000, we believed the Krishna basin encompassing stretches along Kolhapur, Satara, Sangli and Solpaur were instrumental in causing pollution because of discharge of untreated water from sugar mills operating in this western Maharashtra belt. Toxic fertilisers would drain into the rivers… However, new factors indicate that industrial effluents are just one aspect. There is greater problem in absence of solid waste management,” said a source.
Acknowledging that there cannot be any compromise on stringent rules for industrial effluents, upgrade of plants has become mandatory.
According to an MIDC official, “The new units cannot be sanctioned unless they conform to the environment parameters. To curb violations, we have to put in place a more effective monitoring mechanism.”
Draft Development Control regulations (2014-2034) are expected to be unveiled later this week. Express Archive