Urban pollution, excess use of fertilizers and sugar-distillery wastewaters are affecting the health and agro-economy of people whose livelihood is dependent on the Ujjani dam catchment. The catchment of Ujjani reservoir is known for its modern agricultural practices and cash crops.
A study conducted by Sandeep Joshi of Shristhi Eco-Research Institute (SERI), a Pune-based NGO, says that the loss is as high as 25% of livelihood income for individuals living in the urban and industrial areas of the catchment. Notably, the Ujjani dam is built on the Bhima river in Solapur district. Three prominent rivers that flow from the city (Mula, Mutha and Pavana) are the tributaries of Bhima.
The primary source of pollution in Ujjani reservoir is the high nitrogen input from sugar industry and distillery wastewaters and excess use of fertilizers. The rate of fertilizer usage in the state has increased from just 14 kg per hectare in 1970-71 to around 75 kg per hectare (average consumption) at present. Sugarcane, which is grown on just 3% of the cultivable land in the Ujjani catchment, consumed the highest quantity of fertilizers. The per hectare consumption of fertilizers for this crop has moved up from 226 kg in 1972-73 to 501 kg in 1990-91.
Of the total land area of the catchment, 25% is under agriculture. Sugarcane farming is done on just 3% of the cultivable land but it uses 60% of the water resources, said Joshi. Wastewater discharge (untreated or partially treated) into the rivers carrying water to Ujjani lake has almost doubled in last 10 years. The water quality of seven rivers of Pune (Mula, Mutha, Pavana, Indrayani, Ram, Ambil and Nagzari) has deteriorated over the period of time with respect to dissolved oxygen and fecal coliforms. Thus, the risk of water borne diseases has increased several times in the downstream of Pune, which includes population using Ujjani’s water for drinking purpose.
This unchecked pollution has resulted in eruption of hazardous gases (methane, hydrogen sulphide) from Ujjani lake many times in the year, indicating the deteriorated ecological health of the water body. ”