Water hyacinth spreads rapidly, blocks sunlight, affecting aquatic life and creating a breeding spot for mosquitoes, say experts.
According to noted zoologist Dr Hemant Ghate, the root cause of hyacinth is the untreated sewage water running into a water body. “We have been informing the civic authorities about this issue since the 70s. It is only in the months of April-May that it gets highlighted,” says Ghate, who is also professor emeritus at the Department of Zoology at Modern College and has done research on water hyacinth.
“It does not directly lead to health problems, but there is a risk as water is allowed to stagnate when this floating plant with thick, round leaves and inflated leaf stems is not removed. Time and again, we have told the authorities not to dump untreated sewage in the river and lakes,” Ghate said, adding that several researchers had shown how the plants could be removed and even used for making handmade paper.
Nitrates and phosphates present in the untreated sewage water allows the prolific growth of this plant and it is likely that those taking a bath in these waters can be at risk of contracting illness due to bacteria and viruses present in the sewage effluent.
“Gastrointestinal disorders have been linked to sewage pollution, but the main worry is the breeding of mosquitoes,” said Dr K Anil Roy, chief medical officer of the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC).
According to Dr Dilip Sarda, former chief of Maharashtra chapter of the Indian Medical Association (IMA), polluted water is a source of both water-borne and vector-borne diseases.