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Something 'fishy' about plastic pollution in Ganga; researchers flag concerns

Updated: Jan 13

Describing the pollution levels in the Ganga river as ‘extremely worrisome’, Dr Chouhan emphasized that a very specific policy is needed for plastic control.

plastic pollution in Ganga

DEHRADUN: Researchers at Hemwati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University have found a new way to detect pollution levels in the Ganga River in Uttarakhand.

They claim that microplastics, thermocol and clothing fibres have been found in stomachs of the marine population, which shows that the Ganga is getting polluted unhindered, besides consuming such fish can have a very adverse effect on human health.

The Department of Himalayan Aquatic Biodiversity of the University has conducted a study on the fishes of the Ganges river – from Devprayag to Haridwar. Dr Jaspal Singh Chauhan, head of the Department of Himalayan Aquatic Biodiversity, and Neha Badola, a research scholar, divided the entire region into two zones (Devprayag to Rishikesh and Rishikesh to Haridwar).

“The total length of Ganga is about 2525 km, our study focuses on a specific stretch of river extending 120 km from Devprayag to Haridwar in Uttarakhand”, said Dr Chauhan.

Speaking to TNIE, Dr Chauhan said, “After a comparative study of the two zones in the research, it has become clear that this problem has been found more in the fish of Haridwar and Rishikesh.”

Describing the pollution levels in the Ganga as ‘extremely worrisome’, Dr Chouhan emphasized that a very specific policy is needed for plastic control.

“Ganga serves as an important source of fresh water for millions of people living in the Gangetic plains of India. Unfortunately, nowadays, the river is facing an increasing environmental challenge in the form of microplastic pollution,” Dr Chauhan told this newspaper.

Researcher Neha Badola told this newspaper, “The research has revealed shocking facts. Samples taken from Devprayag to Haridwar have found plastic in the stomachs of fish, including cloth fibres and plastics like thermocol.”

“Lack of proper garbage disposal system, discharge of garbage into Ganga and its tributaries and uncontrolled activities along the banks of rivers in the name of tourism are the reasons,” Badola added.

Sharing a gist of the year-long research to measure pollution in the Ganga through fish, Badola said, “A positive relationship was observed between the number of microplastics in fish and their body length, weight and visceral weight, while no association was found between food habit and microplastics accumulation...The side effects of eating these fish by humans will be revealed in the second phase of research.”

R K Jain, General Manager (Ganga river), of the Central government’s Namami Gange project, told this newspaper that out of the total 32 Sewerage Treatment Plants (STPs) in the state, two are set up in Devprayag and five in Rishikesh, which are continuously operational and in progress to control pollution.

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