Bhopal, the capital city of Madhya Pradesh, was listed on the second spot for the second year in a row on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ambitious Swachh Survekshan 2018 list of the cleanest cities in India last month. But, is this practice of bestowing awards on the cities merely a formality or is it done after a thorough analysis of basic civic facilities in these states along with the overall cleanliness? A survey conducted by a Bhopal-based environmentalist has revealed some startling observations about the city's government-run water facilities. The survey, conducted by Dr Subhash C Pandey, revealed Bhopal's drinking water is polluted to the level that it contains more harmful bacteria than those present in human urine, a report published in The Quint said.
In cleanest city, water is more polluted than urine
On May 16, both Indore and Bhopal, two prominent cities of Madhya Pradesh, were named as the cleanest cities of India. Lauding the efforts of officials and people of these cities, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, at that time had said, "It's a proud moment that Indore and Bhopal have been listed on top in the Swachh Survekshan 2018. I thank people of these cities for their awareness, hard work and determination."
गर्व और प्रसन्नता का क्षण है कि #SwachhSurvekshan2018 के सर्वे में हमारे इंदौर और भोपाल ने श्रेष्ठता बरक़रार रखते हुए फिर से देशभर में पहला और दूसरा स्थान प्राप्त किया है। इन महानगरों के नागरिकों की जागरूकता, लगन और संकल्प के लिए अभिनन्दन और आभार व्यक्त करता हूं। #NayaMPhttps://t.co/UXtwtiMDPU- ShivrajSingh Chouhan (@ChouhanShivraj) May 16, 2018
Dr Pandey's survey, however, seems to paint a different picture of the 'cleanest city'. A week before the Swachh Survekshan 2018 report was announced Dr Pandey collected around 42 samples from different locations of the city, especially public places like railway stations, government-run hospitals, government colleges, municipal corporation offices etc. He found out that the collected water samples contained several harmful bacteria and other dissolved inorganic substances, which were over 2,400 times above the safe limit. All tests were conducted at a certified lab named 'Janata Ki Lab', said the environmentalist, adding that he found urinal bacteria, TDS, heavy metal iron substance in the drinking water samples.
He observed that the contaminated water can be a cause of several health-related problems. The bacteria found in these samples were similar to those found in urine, thereby posing huge health-related risk to the city residents. People using this contaminated water are at the risk of getting exposed to stomach-related illness, waterborne diseases, and even cancer, says Dr Pandey, adding that these bacteria can also cause hair fall and skin-related diseases.
The areas where these water samples were collected include Habibganj and Bairagarh railway stations, the Sultania Janana Hospital, JP Hospital, Hamidia Hospital, Nadara bus stand, Hamidia Arts College, Motilal Vigyan Mahavidyalaya, among others, while drinking water samples were collected from the local civic body's water tankers.
Madhya Pradesh is already staring at an acute water shortage as 65 dams out of 164 important reservoirs in the state have almost dried up. Besides this, 39 tanks have 10 per cent or less water stock of their capacity, PTI had recently quoted a senior official of the Madhya Pradesh Water Resources Department as saying.
Bacteria level way beyond standard limit
Dr Pandey in his report said the major toxicant that contaminates water is coliform bacteria, which was ranged between 1,100-2,400 MPN in these samples. The permissible limit as per the Bureau of Indian Standards is zero MPN of coliform bacteria. Besides, heavy metal, found to be around 1.4mg, was more way more than the permissible limit of less than .3mg. Total dissolved solids, which should not exceed beyond 500mg per litre, were found to be around 772 mg per litre of water.
Reasons for water contamination
According to Dr Pandey, only humans are responsible for the polluted water problem in the city. He said no upkeep of water facilities, and mixing of drinking water and sewage supply through pipelines -- it's a standard norm to lay both water and sewage pipelines closely -- contaminate all the potable water supply. He also said the sewage water is released in the city's three prominent lakes, which pollutes the ground water. He said it is the reason that the water supply coming through hand pumps, bore wells, etc is filthy.
Meanwhile, according to the Quint report, a Madhya Pradesh Pollution Control Board official said the board have not received any complaint regarding the contaminated water so far. He, however, failed to say when was the last time the authorities conducted an official survey to assess the water contamination problem in the city.