Saranda wildlife chokes on river of death

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  • Published 2.05.04

Chaibasa, May 2: This summer, animals of Saranda forest will see “red” whenever they drink from river Karo.

Over 40 mini industrial plants on the banks of Karo, which originates from Orissa, have directly or indirectly turned it red with its industrial wastes.

The river passes through the industrial zone of Sundergarh and Keonjhar district, where sponge and iron crushing plants dump their wastes into Karo before it entered West Singhbhum district.

The reddish tinge can be seen between Gua and Chhotanagra, both situated in the Singhbhum-Kolhan division.

The river nurtures 50-70 km of the southern portion of West Singhbhum district, a region of dense forest, before joining Koel river at Sameez Ashram in Goilkera block.

Several of the smaller streams of the area dry up in summer, forcing wildlife as well as villagers of the region to drink from Karo river.

Saranda divisional forest officer H.S. Gupta admitted that the water of Karo river had turned red due to heavy pollution from industrial centres in Orissa and Gua’s Indian Iron and Steel Company.

According to villagers of Gua, the latter plant was the major polluter.

According to the division forest officer, the wide stretch of Saranda forest is home to a number of insects, amphibians, reptiles, mollusca, birds and mammals. Elephants, bears, monkeys and domestic animals were the worst affected.

“Polluted water has over the years killed the mahaseer fish. Once this fish was abundant and British Major Foster fished it from Koel river.

But now it has become a rare species due to pollution. If other animals continue to drink the contaminated water, the result would be disastrous, Gupta told The Telegraph.

He added that there has been forest degradation in the fringes of Orissa due to rising population and large-scale exploitation of mineral resources.

“This has led to migration of bigger mammals, particularly elephants. These animals — the largest mammals on earth — need more water compared to other creatures. Therefore, drinking this polluted water could internally damage their intestines. Other animals and indigenous tribal populations could also face similar problems. The villagers usually drink water from this perennial source of water throughout the year,” a senior divisional officer said.

A manual mine owner based at Chaibasa said most of the mine plants, which have mushroomed over the past two years, violate environmental norms.

According to him, almost all of them failed to construct proper drainage systems around the quarry and waste dump and install check dams near the dumpsite to arrest loose material. They also failed to periodically cleanse the drains, strengthen small stones and rock barriers across the water, periodically channel and discharge waste material before clinical treatment, he said.

“Water should be passed through settling tanks of appropriate capacities. After the treatment of water, it should be discharged into the nearest nallas, a senior forest officer said.

He added that in the coming years, wildlife of the region were likely to end up with serious diseases.