Mumbai: One-fifth of the city is letting off sewage directly into the sea

Apr 17, 2018, 10:25 IST | Laxman Singh

A first-of-its-kind survey by BMC's Storm Water Drains department has revealed that as many as 76,425 out of the city's nearly 3.5 lakh sewage lines are illegally dumping untreated toxic waste into the ocean

Raw sewage is discharged into Mithi river from the slums at BKC. Pic/Nimesh Dave
Raw sewage is discharged into Mithi river from the slums at BKC. Pic/Nimesh Dave

High-rises or slums, their crap is flowing straight into our rivers and sea. In a first-of-its-kind survey, the BMC has found that nearly a fifth of Mumbai - over 76,000 properties - are discharging untreated sewage into stormwater drains that are meant solely for rainwater. These drains then empty the sewage into the rivers or the sea.

While the city has dedicated sewerage lines, the storm water drains (SWD) and nullahs are only meant to carry rainwater to the sea. These rainwater drains do not pass through any treatment and flow directly into the sea. Apart from the monsoon, these pipes are supposed to remain dry.

And yet, the civic body has found that tens of thousands of buildings are illegally flushing their waste down these drains and into the sea. In December 2017, the BMC's Sewerage Operation (SO) department completed its survey of street connections (sewerage lines connected to properties like housing societies, commercial establishments, slums, and even high-rises) across the city. These street connections should ideally flow into the city's sewerage lines.

However, according to the data, out of a total of 3,48,672 properties, as many as 76,425 street connections are flowing into SWDs and nullahs or are discharging raw sewage into the Mithi, Oshiwara, Dahisar and Poisar rivers.

Bandra, Sion the worst
While 35,442 properties discharge their waste via SWD lines, another 40,756 properties dump theirs in nullahs. Moreover, as per the data, sewage lines of 207 properties are directly connected to the sea, and while 20 properties unload their sewage into creeks. Mithi river is worst affected by the illegal discharge of sewage. Along the 11.8-km river, there are thousands of points slums or buildings dump their waste into the water. This waste then flows through Bandra and Dharavi and merges with the sea.

The data shows that the H-West ward (Bandra, Khar Road, Santacruz) have the highest numbers of properties illegally discharging the waste - 6,612 connected to storm water drains, and 2,396 to nullahs. Following up a distant second is the F-North ward (Matunga, Sion, Dadar), where 3,506 properties are connected to SWDs and 2,929 merge with nullahs. In the M-East ward (Deonar, Govandi) in the eastern suburbs, 3,314 properties are connected to SWDs, and 339 dump their waste in nullahs.

Massive damage
In the last few years, such cases have also been found at Grant Road, Dockyard Road and Juhu. "This is illegal, as these drains are supposed to carry only rainwater," said a senior official from the SO department.

This data has put the spotlight on the rising contamination of the city's coastline, where the untreated sewage is being discharged. Activist Irfan Machiwala, who is involved in beach clean-up initiatives, said, "This is the biggest cause of pollution along our coastline. The BMC should have taken precautions while giving permission to buildings. There should be strict monitoring of residential societies' sewage connections. The BMC's failure to connect buildings to the main sewerage lines is a matter of concern. This has resulted in enormous damage to marine life."

Ashok Yamgar, the chief engineer of the SO department, said, "Because of this, the water quality of several rivers and drains is at its worst. Now that we have the exact data on street connections, we will ask the Sewerage Project department to prepare a plan to divert such illegal connections to the main sewer lines, for treatment and discharge."

76,425
Number of properties emptying sewage into rivers and sea

Also Read: Mumbai: Businessmen at Antophill forced to jump over stinky sewage water to enter industrial complex

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