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CAG frowns on Umiam pollution

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  • Published 23.03.11

Shillong, March 22: A CAG report has rapped the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited for not initiating any steps to protect the Umiam reservoir which feeds five downstream hydropower plants of the corporation.

The reservoir covers an area of 10 square km and serves as a recreational spot for tourists with amenities for boating and angling.

In addition, the reservoir supplies drinking water to the army cantonment at Umroi and to the villages situated downstream of the powerhouses, the report said.

The report said in 2008, the Pollution Control Board, Meghalaya, carried out a check on the water quality of the reservoir and certified it “D”.

According to the Central Pollution Control Board, water certified “D” is unfit for human consumption and can be utilised only for wildlife and fisheries.

The check also revealed that while dissolved oxygen was within acceptable parameters, the biochemical oxygen level was way beyond the norms laid down by the board. The total coliform organism was also on the higher side in relation to the board norms.

The state board said the major sources of pollution of the waterbody were discharge of municipal waste, dumping of soil and garbage, deforestation and agricultural activities in the catchment area. It added that the faecal coliform count, which indicates the presence of pathogen in water, was a major concern.

“We are of the view that the sources of pollution pointed out by the state board will also contribute to silting of the reservoir at a faster rate than what the reservoir was designed for, thereby, reducing the life span of the lake,” the report said.

Of the total capacity of 186.70MW installed by the state’s energy corporation, 185.20MW is wholly dependent on the reservoir water. The report warned that the situation, if left unchecked, might have serious implications on the Meghalaya Energy Corporation Limited’s long-term operations.

“There was no evidence on record to show that the Meghalaya State Electricity Board had initiated or is contemplating initiating action to address these issues,” the report read.

It may be mentioned that the Water and Power Consultancy Services , a government of India enterprise under the Union ministry of water resources, had submitted a detailed project report on desiltation of the reservoir to the state energy corporation in October last year.

The report was then sent to the Union ministry for water resources for approval of the desiltation project.

According to the Meghalaya State Development Report, 2008, the Umiam reservoir, constructed in 1965, has a projected lifespan of 400 years.

The report said a study conducted by the power consultancy services in 1990 had revealed that the sediment production in the catchment area of the reservoir was approximately 8.66 lakh tonnes.