As they say, every cloud has a silver lining; and so it seems to be even with the COVID-19 pandemic. Even as coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on human health, Nature seems to be healing as evident in cleaner skies and rivers. The pandemic induced lockdown that was imposed across the country put an effective brake on the dumping of industrial effluents and other pollutants into our rivers.
We, at Mitra S K Pvt. Ltd., decided to investigate the effects of the lockdown on the lifeline of our State, our very own river Ganga. Water samples from multiple locations along the Ganga between Kidderpore and Dakshineshwar were collected. We tested these samples in our state of the art laboratories, on more than thirty parameters that serve to indicate the health of a river. What we found was greatly reassuring.
Contamination by heavy metals such as Mercury, Lead, and Arsenic was not detected but levels of iron were somewhat higher in some of the samples. This means that while it is not advisable to use this water for drinking, it is fine for purposes of fisheries and agriculture. In these times, when people’s livelihoods have taken a hit, that is certainly good news for our farmers.
Similarly, the concentration of ions such as fluoride, phosphate, ammoniacal nitrogen, and total nitrogen were found to be well within permissible limits as established by the Central Pollution Control Board. In particular, the concentration of nitrates showed a significant fall as compared to the pre-lockdown period indicating reduced organic pollution from the domestic, farm, or industrial wastes.
The Ganga is said to have self-purifying properties. But this miraculous characteristic is reportedly suppressed in the presence of high levels of industrial pollutants. Enjoying the current respite from industrial effluents, this self-purifying feature seems to be functioning optimally. Our beloved river Ganga is slowly but surely healing, at least for now, before we fall back into our old polluting ways.
Will we learn our lessons and take better care of our rivers in the future? The Gangetic Dolphins that were spotted in Kolkata after nearly three decades will certainly hope so