How Waste Pollutes Rivers…

Over the past few years, India has seen its rivers deteriorate. Many of them have lost their natural flow and ecosystem. Urbanization has lead to heavy water pollution leaving the rivers in a severely bad position. We can take a look at the degree of damage done to the rivers by closely observing Mula-Mutha rivers from Pune.


Accumulation of mixed waste at Mutha river located in the central part of Pune city.

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Did you know the following facts about our rivers?

The dissolved oxygen (DO) levels of the rivers Mula-Mutha have been lowered to as much as 0.4 mg/l. (According to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), DO for a healthy river is 2 mg/l) This means that the rivers are drying up!

Pollution of these rivers is so severe that Mutha has earned second position in Methane generating potential in the state!The diversity of native fish species, in both Mula and Mutha rivers, has gone down significantly due to pollution and loss of habitat.


The consistent dumping of waste in Mutha river is degrading the environment and making water undrinkable for living species.

This is the current situation of our rivers! There are various factors which are responsible for it, such as, the untreated sewage and industrial waste getting into the water, dumping construction debris in the riverbed, dumping garbage in the rivers etc. As every individual factor needs separate attention, let’s focus on one aspect- dumping solid waste in the rivers. 

Rivers- The Dumping Ground

A sight of the river full of plastic bags, bottles, cans and other trash is very common if you travel along the river in the city. The stretch of Mula river, till it meets Pavana river, has been polluted mostly by domestic waste, i.e sewage, garbage dumped in the river and construction waste in some parts. The growth of algae blooms and water hyacinth support this fact.


A resident dumping waste in the river system in Pune city.

Residents have also very well been seen to dump the Nirmalaya (The floral offerings to the god) into the river. First of all, we need to understand that the river is not a place to dump the garbage. It needs to go the public dust bins or handed over to the waste pickers, who collect it from our homes. Secondly, we need to learn to segregate the waste. The nirmalya (Wet waste) is wrapped in a plastic bag (Dry waste) and then thrown into the river by many. This kind of mixed waste proves to be even more dangerous for the health of the river. Every kind of waste has its own way ahead. We need to understand that. After all the health of city is much affected by the health of its river.

Construction Debris finding its way in the rivers

As per the number in 2012, about 100 tons of debris including concrete, bricks, cement plaster and iron, is generated in Pune every-day. The illegal dumping of such construction rubble in the riverbeds and hills has continued in the city, as admits the environment status report of the PMC. In many cases, the debris is dumped in the green belt of the river, affecting its natural flow.

 Adverse Effects of Dumping Construction Debris in the Rivers

Dumping of the construction debris is responsible for obstructing the flow of water. This damages the width and banks of the river. It severely jeopardizes its inherent water carrying capacity. This can lead to serious flooding problems in monsoons in the surrounding houses. It also affects the diversity of native fish species due to the loss of habitat.

Depletion of Oxygen in the Stream

The waste thrown in the rivers increases the BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand) and COD (Chemical Oxygen Demand) levels in the rivers. BOD is the amount of dissolved oxygen needed by aerobic biological organisms in a water body to break down organic material present in it. COD is a measure of the capacity of water to consume oxygen during the decomposition of organic matter and the oxidation of inorganic chemicals such as ammonia and nitrite.


The organic waste matter pollution in the Mutha river

The greater the BOD or COD, the more rapidly oxygen is depleted in the stream. This means less oxygen is available to higher forms of aquatic life. As a result, the aquatic organisms become stressed, suffocate, and die.

Other Harmful Effects of Dumping Waste into the Rivers


Human settlements along the banks of Mutha river are extremely affected by the increasing water pollution.

All the pollutants can seep down and affect the groundwater deposits. The polluted water also carries diseases which can harm human health.

Waste Segregation at source: A key to cleaner river and city

We need to be aware and alert! This is the time we should understand the importance of keeping the rivers clean. If we segregate the waste at our homes and give it to the waste pickers in a segregated form, there would not be any need to throw waste anywhere else. If everybody makes segregation a habit, our city and rivers will be clean and safe!  Let us swear to segregate the waste and throw it at the right place!

-Filed by Vaishnavi Sambhus



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