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Pesticides in ‘Gangajal!’
|by V. K. Joshi (Bijji)|
Bhagalpur, the silk city of India, a small, but fast growing town, located on the banks of the Holy Ganga is facing a peculiar problem. Indian researchers, viz. Leena Singh, S.K. Choudhary and P.K. Singh, respectively of Department of Chemistry, Galgotias of Engineering and Technology, Greater NOIDA, Department of Botany, Bhagalpur University, Bihar and Department of Chemistry, K.M. College, Delhi University, Delhi report elevated pesticide levels in the water samples of Ganga River.
Bhagalpur is the second largest city of Bihar with a population of over three million. It is historic town, said to be the part of the ancient Sanskrit Kingdom of Anga. It was at one time ruled by Karna of Mahabharata. It is famous for its special variety of Silk, the Tussar silk for the past 200 years. Being a part of the lower Ganga plains, it is highly fertile terrain as well. It is an irony that agriculture in our country has to bank a lot on the use of pesticides. Often people compare our agriculture with that of developed countries, like the US and say that they have banned the pesticides and we are still sticking to them. The problem is that in tropical countries every form of life, be it human, animal or plant proliferates. Thus, in order to save the crops being devoured by the pests, the use of the pesticides becomes imperative.
The pesticides on the other hand are of many types. Of these the organochlorine pesticides are known to resist biodegradation, and their prolonged residence makes them more concentrated over a period of time. Leena and others say that concentration of DDT in soil becomes 75 to 100% in a period over 30 years. The other type, which is the organophosphorous pesticides are known to degrade rapidly. Alas, the developing countries are often compelled to use the harmful variety of the pesticides, owing to the high cost of manufacturing of the rapidly degrading types of pesticides.
Ganga, the holy river of our Country runs through a length of 2525 km with a basin area of over one million square kilometer. This river has been the biggest cradle of a civilization after the Harappa period. It holds a population of more than 400 million people residing in 114 districts along the river. Ganga is considered as the soul purifier and a devout Hindu has only one wish, that is to have a few drops of water to be put in his mouth, before he is consigned to flames. Alas, the faith and the civic habits have never gone together. Consequently, the Ganga has been sadly converted into one of the most polluted rivers. A nauseating 1.3 billion liters of the sewer from the population mentioned travels untreated to the river. Leena says, ‘further 260 million liters of industrial wastes, run off from six million tons of fertilizers and 9000 tons of pesticides used within the basin, directly enters the River.’
Leena and her colleagues carried out a systematic study of pesticides in various reaches of the Ganga around Bhagalpur. Their study revealed a higher level of DDT in the water. Since this pesticide has a longer residency period in the sediments, its concentration goes on increasing as the years pass by.Yet another pesticide that was found to be in higher quantities was Lindane, report Leena et.al. Lindane, though has a residency period of only 18 hours, its presence in drinking water could cause nervous disorders in the humans. Yet another pesticide known to affect the human nervous system is Methyl Parathion. It was found that this pesticide has affected the river fishes as well-not a good signal for the fish eaters of the region.
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