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CPCB’s water quality monitoring at 1,275 locations in India has revealed that 718 locations do not meet water quality criteria. Photo: Hindustan Times
CPCB’s water quality monitoring at 1,275 locations in India has revealed that 718 locations do not meet water quality criteria. Photo: Hindustan Times

Govt issues draft of new standards on water quality

Draft with 14 points to measure the quality of water was made public on Monday; seeks views within 30 days

The environment ministry, with the aim of making water bodies fit for bathing, has decided to tighten water quality norms.

It made the draft of the new standards made public on Monday, seeking views within 30 days.

In the draft standards, the ministry has presented 14 points to determine the quality of water in a river or water body. They include factors such as total coliform (TC), fecal coliform, pH value, bio-chemical oxygen demand (BOD), dissolved oxygen (DO), odour, colour and floating matter, among others.

BOD is a measure of the amount of dissolved oxygen required to completely oxidize available organic waste, while DO is the amount of oxygen dissolved in a given quantity of water. TC includes bacteria that are used as indicators to measure the degree of pollution.

According to a ministry official who did not want to be identified, “The work to improve water quality standards has been going on for a while but it received a push in the last few months."

“Controlling water pollution in rivers and water bodies, especially from untreated sewage, is high on our agenda. Thus apart from tightening and upgrading standards we are also pushing for 24x7 online monitoring of sewage falling into such water bodies," the official said.

Mint had reported in August that the ministry was preparing new pollution standards for 22 sectors, including water bodies, as part of its efforts to “restore the sanctity of rivers".

According to estimates of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India’s apex pollution watchdog, sewage generation in urban India alone is estimated to be around 62,000 million litres per day, whereas installed sewage treatment capacity is only 23,277 million litres per day. The rest of the untreated sewage ends up polluting water bodies, especially rivers.

CPCB’s water quality monitoring at 1,275 locations covering 445 rivers across India has revealed that 718 locations do not meet water quality criteria. The study also revealed 302 polluted stretches on 275 rivers along 35 metropolitan cities and 615 urban centres.

Experts remain unsure of whether the standards will have any effect.

“It is all hogwash and nothing but creation of paper tigers. Because there will be no follow-up on the ground. The basic requirement is implementation of the existing rules rather than coming out with new rules and regulations," said Manoj Misra, convenor of Yamuna Jiye Abhiyaan, a civil society campaign to save the Yamuna.

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