Untreated waste discharged by sugar factories into rivers flowing through Sangli and Kolhapur districts have proved lethal for aquatic life with fish dying by the thousands this week.
Rivers flowing through Shirol taluka in Kolhapur district and Walava taluka in Sangli district have been the worst hit. In Warana river, the water is dark green with an oily cover. There is an acute drinking water shortage in the 12 riverside villages from Kernigan to Saigon. There are 16 sugar factories in Kolhapur and 14 in Sangli district.
The dead fish floating on the rivers only make matters worse. “The water is stinking, and we can’t use it for drinking. We face such problems every year due to the release of waste material from nearby sugar mills into the river. But this is the first time we are seeing fish die,” said Mahesh Patil, a resident of Kanegaon village.
The dead fish include small ones as well as those weighing over 10 kg. Residents from Damoli, Samdoli and Kumbhoj villages in Shirol taluka from Kolhapur district, located on the banks of the Panchaganga river, too, are facing a similar problem, and water supply to these villages has been stopped.
Polluted water from the Warana river is entering the Krishna river with the dead fish. “The fish are sold in the market for Rs 5 to 10 per kg. This may lead to the spread of an epidemic. The Health and Administration Department is not taking any action,” alleged Swarupkumar Patil, a resident from Shigaon, one of the affected villages. He said the cause of the pollution was scum, a by-product of local sugar mills which is released into the river.
But the sugar mills are not ready to take the blame. “We have a special mechanism for purifying scum before the effluent is released into the river. But for the last 15 days, we haven’t drained any waste product in the river,” said Prataprao Patil, director of Shri Tatyasaheb Kore Warana Cooperative Sugar Mill. “We recycle the waste material and use it for watering fields,” claimed Ranjit Naik, chairman of Vishwas Cooperative Sugar Mill in Chikhali.
“Pollution control board in Sangli district has taken samples from Warana river and forwarded them to its Kolhapur office for further investigation,” said Walava tehsildar Vijay Patil. “We are checking samples at our laboratory in Chiplun, and it will take seven days to get the details,” said S S Kendule, an official from the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board, Kolhapur.