Microplastics in Ganga more than any other major world river: Study
- Posted By
23rd Jul, 2021
As per a latest study conducted by Delhi-based non-profit Toxic Link, the Ganga is heavily polluted with microplastics at Varanasi, Haridwar and Kanpur.
What are microplastics?
- Microplastics are tiny plastic particles but a major source of pollution.
- They are non-degradable plastics.
- Size: They are less than five millimeters (0.2 inches) in diameter.
- Ehylenevinyl: Used in food, drugs and cosmetic packaging.
- Polyacetylene: Used as a doping agent in the electronics industry.
- Polypropylene: Used in packaging, plastic sheets, fibre, fabrics, rope, etc.
- PIP: Used in footwear and baby bottle nipples.
- Polyamide (nylon): Used as a natural fibre and as metal wires in clothing and industry.
Key-highlights of the Study
- Title of the Study: Quantitative analysis of Microplastics along River Ganga
- Research area: Varanasi, Haridwar and Kanpur.
- Among the three cities, Varanasi (Assi Ghat) showed the maximum load of microplastics, as compared to the other two cities.
- This might be due to cumulative downstream pollution and also because of industrial and human activities.
- Kanpur’s Dohri ghat ranked topmost among all 15 sites (five each from all three cities) from where the river water sample was collected.
- Resins like EVOH, Polyacetylene, PIP, PVC and PVAL were predominantly present in all three locations.
Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy
- The samples were tested through the Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy.
- It is a technique used to identify small organic or inorganic material — to identify the exact type, or resin core present in the water.
Is Ganga microplastic pollution more than any other major world river?
- This research compared the microplastics concentration in Ganga water with similar studies on other rivers across the globe, like the-
- Rhine in Europe
- the Magothy, Rhode Patapsco in North America
- the Maipo, Biobio, Maule and Elqui in South America
- Compared to other cities, Ganga microplastics pollution was much higher.
- This finding is worrisome as there is higher per capita consumption of plastic in the European countries, North and South America, as compared to India.
What are the reasons behind high concentration?
- Industrial waste and religious offering: Microplastics often entered the Ganga through industrial waste or packaging of religious offerings.
- Population: The density of population in cities also adds to the problem because a large chunk of pollutants got directly discharged into the river by people living on the banks.
- Release of sewage waste: Sewage and / or industrial effluents are also responsible for the increased concentration.
Why the findings are of grave concern?
- The results of this study are a matter of grave concern not just for academic and scientific interests but also from the public health perspective.
- The Ganga is a source of water for not just drinking and bathing purposes but also for irrigation to a large extent.
- The river is acting as a carrier of plastics and microplastics and transporting significantly large quantities into the ocean.
Ganga River Basin
- Ganga is a sacred body of water to Hindus.
- It begins high in the Himalaya Mountains (Gomukh, the terminus of the Gongotri Glacier) and empties out into the Bay of Bengal.
- When the ice of this glacier melts, it forms the clear waters of the Bhagirathi River.
- As the Bhagirathi River flows down the Himalayas, it joins the Alaknanda River, officially forming the Ganges River.
- The Ganges River Basin is sometimes considered part of a larger river basin consisting of the nearby Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers.
- Known as the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) River Basin, it is one of the largest river systems in the world.
How does it impact people?
- Toxicity: Microplastics in river water, if ingested in humans or other organisms, can cause toxicity through various means. Not only are these microplastics toxic themselves, they also have a tendency to absorb various toxins present in water, including harmful chemicals.
- Food chain: Microplastics can enter human bodies consumption of sea food and also through use of products that contain nanoplastics such as scrubs, lipsticks, mascara, shampoos etc.
- Oral, dermal and inhalation exposure: Other than the food chain, constant contact with day-to-day life plastic products allows oral, dermal and inhalation exposure to microplastics and additive chemicals to human body.
- Affected marine life: Microplastics damage aquatic creatures, as well as turtles and birds.
Microplastics are evidently everywhere and it is not just affecting people’s lives but the entire ecosystem. India, despite being a major hotspot does not have proper knowledge and research on the topic. Thus, research is urgently needed in order to have an effective solution for this global issue.