Dying Daya

Rashmi Rekha Das, OP

What is Thames to London,
Ganga to Banaras,
And Daya to Bhubaneswar;
Is a dead stream of effluents
Bearing urban litter
Plastic wrappers, cardboard boxes
Thermocol and plastic….

River Daya is sacred to Bhubaneswar. It has a past and a mythology of its own. Its wet bank, which was warmed by the blood of valiant soldiers of Kalinga, stands testimony to the transformation of Mauryan emperor Ashoka in 261 BC. The emperor’s rock edicts on the banks of the river show evidence of the change in his attitude to life. The life-sustaining river is today poisoned by effluents from industries lining its banks.
A reality-check by Sunday POST.

For Indians, rivers are sacred and life-giving deities. So is river Daya special, with a history, legend and mythology of its own. Daya has associations with the Kalinga war. Legend has it that the Mauryan emperor Ashoka washed his blood-stained sword in the river after the brutal Kalinga war.

The historical reverence for river Daya remains unaffected even today. At the same time, the people have failed to protect the river and it is slowly dying.

Rapid industrialisation coupled with a growing population has polluted Daya like never before. Industrial effluents from the Gangua Nullah in Bhubaneswar are pushed into the river every day and the water is no longer potable. The State Pollution Control Board (SPCB), in August 2016, found that the water samples collected from the Gangua Nullah were most polluted. The board declared Daya water to be unfit even for bathing, as it had high levels of coliform bacteria.

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According to official sources, the water requirements of Bhubaneswar city are mainly met from the rivers Kuakhai and Daya. Both these rivers receive industrial and domestic discharges through wastewater drains, overflow of septic tanks and oxidation ponds. Most of the city’s sewage reaches the two rivers through open drains. There are 10 open drains in Bhubaneswar discharging sewage.

In the absence of a proper sewerage system in many parts of the city, people use septic tanks and soak pits. In most of the places, sewage is discharged into open drains without any treatment.

As the natural drainage channels have become sewerage channels with people connecting their wastewater pipes to them, Gangua Nullah collects the city’s entire load of domestic and industrial wastes. About 88 industries and two industrial clusters, of which 34 are classified as industries with the potentially harmful effluents, discharge effluents into the nullah. Kuakhai and Gangua receive 107.25 million litre per day (mld) of wastewater within the city of which 47.6 mld is from domestic sources and 29.3 mld from industrial areas, the government’s own figures reveal.

The major contributor to water pollution is Patia drain. These drains discharge domestic and industrial wastewater from the densely populated Old City.

According to Sample Test Reports of nine out of 11 major rivers in 79 locations done by the pollution board, the pollution level is alarmingly above the danger mark in almost all places. The river water is contaminated with bio-chemical oxygen and coliform bacteria.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board norms, water with biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) less than 2 mg per litre and total coliform (TC) up to 50 microbes per millilitre is suitable for drinking. Similarly, BOD up to 3mg/litre and TC up to 500 microbes per millilitre can be used for bathing. However, the counts for Daya far exceed these specified limits.

SPCB observed that no river in Orissa conformed to Class-A (drinking water source without conventional treatment but after disinfection) because of high total coliform bacterial counts.

The water quality of the rivers downstream of major urban local bodies or towns does not meet the specified standards. Such downstream stations identified are at Sambalpur and Cuttack on Mahanadi river, Cuttack on Kathajodi river, Bhubaneswar on Daya river, Rourkela on Brahmani river, Jeykaypur and Rayagada on Nagavali river, Madhopur and Potagarh on Rushikulya river; and Balasore on Budhabalanga river.

SPCB has clearly stated in its report that “the Daya river receives the city’s wastewater, at least through one organised outfall, the Gangua Nullah, in between, as a consequence of which the water quality is downgraded… unacceptable for most beneficial uses.”

What they say
Bibekananda Bhol, senior scientist at SPCB, says, “Why Daya alone, I would say that no river water is fit for human use. Concerning Daya, six treatment plants will be commissioned to make the river pollution-free. It has been decided to set up sewage treatment plants at Rokat, Andharua, Meherpalli, Kochilaput and Paikapur. That apart, citizens have a role to play. Open defecation must stop immediately.”

Sangram Keshari Paikray, convener of Daya Banchao Abhiyan, says, “The city has 10 major natural drainage channels. And eight drainage channels flow into the Gangua, which carries the load to Daya. It is shameful that sewage is discharged into open drains without any treatment. Our survey shows that 300 tonne of garbage is daily dumped into Daya. Gangua was once a river but now it has turned into a sewage drain. Similarly, if measures are not taken immediately, Daya will become another Gangua. That’s not all. Daya river pollution is directly affecting the Chilika lagoon. Any further delay could affect even Chilika.”

When asked, BMC Mayor Ananta Narayana Jena tries to shift blame saying, “Daya belongs to Water Resources Department. So I don’t have anything to say in this regard.”

What locals say
Madhusmita Lenka, a homemaker, says, “Water is considered life as we need it for drinking, bathing, fishing and irrigation. With the growth of modern civilisation, our life has come under threat of pollution from the surface and underground. The water we get here is not fit to drink. As Daya is our only water source, care should be taken to ensure the river is not polluted. ”

Banita Palai, who stays near Sishu Bhawan, says the state government should deal with river pollution as it is a serious issue. “The water we get here is full of coliform bacteria. In Bhubaneswar, everyone cannot afford to buy bottled mineral water. So it is the government’s duty to ensure safe drinking water to every household. If Daya is not made pollution free, rivers Bhargavi, Luna and Ratnachira will also get polluted.”

Kaliprasad Dash, a resident of Nuagaon, says, “Urgent steps should be taken to save Daya as residents of several villages on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar depend on the river for drinking water and irrigation.”

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