Adeela Hameed

Impact of Water Pollution on River Biodiversity

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Wandering through the forest: Dachigam National Park. Photo: Kashif Farooq Bhat

Indian peninsula has been favoured by large perennial and seasonal rivers that adorn the vastness of its geography and provide livelihood to multiple sections of the society. People inhabit areas around these rivers to get fresh water, food, housing, transport and recreation facilities. Thus, resonating with the fact that river systems are naturally wired to sustain life. However from the past few decades, the natural sheen and force of Indian rivers has seen a gradual decline, giving rise to an unwanted predicament. The very core of these rivers might face exhaustion in the near future!

Result of Unsupervised Interferences

Interactions between abiotic and biotic organisms have to be maintained for survival of all. And rivers, canals, streams, creeks or brooks act as natural hierarchical water links between ecosystems, catering to the basic necessities of each region. Rivers are the hub of intermixing ecosystems. If left alone, without any man-madedisruption, these pristine ecosystems have the ability to survive and thrive properly. The basic idea to be understood from this statement is that unsupervised interference by humans has potential to terminate an important species. Be it due to external pollution or by introduction of minuscule niche changes that convert stable ecosystems to barren ones.

To know how pollution is influencing rivers, both physico-chemical and ecological indicators are to be well referenced. An example of ecological indicators is diatoms. Absence of diatom species in and around any river basin might affect level of pollutants and change the physico-chemical nature of a river. Diatoms are extremely delicate but efficient bio-indicators of pollutants, biochemical elements, temperature, alkalinity and dynamics of a flowing water body. Any change in the stipulated environment might lead to their extinction. Although new varieties may thrive in a pollutant rich environment depending on the presence of substances they are sensitive to, but loss of any significant species, even microscopic in dimension, might lead to a domino effect in and around the distressed area. Physico-chemical parameters, that include pH, alkalinity, hardness, dissolved oxygen (DO), biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), total dissolved solids (TDS), organic and inorganic salts etc., help in determining whether water in any river is fit for consumption, industrial activity or agricultural use as per the Indian or WHO standards.

Are We Doing Our Best?

India is far behind from the rest of the world in terms of sustainable development. With pollution affecting every corner of the country, water scarcity looming ahead, and a growing population way more than the nation’s carrying capacity, India has to work exceptionally hard to secure a place among environmentally stable economies. And from a bird’s eye perspective, the country shows much lackadaisical attitude among its general public and the government regarding protection and cleaning of its polluted rivers. Even though departments are formed rigorouslyeach year, and centres for pollution check and control set up, yet every agency fails to achieve its proclaimed targets in one way or another.

Realizing the present scenario of Indian rivers, most of which are regarded as pious and holy, it can be unequivocally surmised that being worshipped does not in any way guarantee that a river, landmark, or temple is safeguarded against selfish human interests. Rivers, religiously important or not, have to be protected well so that their ecosystems thrive and these continue to flow for another century or so. That is how you worship a deity.

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