Occupying an area of about 839000 square miles, the Bay of Bengal is one of India’s most important oceans. The water body also holds significant historical importance in Kolkata, and once served as the gateway for the Britisher’s arrival to India.
It is also the home of 475 different species of fish, and thus also plays a crucial role in the ecological aspect. The livelihood of thousands of fishermen in Kolkata rely solely on the Bay of Bengal – the annual prawn-catch, nearshore fish species, and tuna-fishing forms a large part of Kolkata’s economy.
But over the years, the quality of this mighty ocean has been deteriorating – largely owed to Kolkata’s excessive pressure on the Bay of Bengal.
Rapid urbanization has led to a massive increase in the demand for water for both domestic and industrial requirements. Dumping of huge amounts of wastes (metallic garbage, e-waste, toxic substances, sewage, harmful and untreated effluents, etc.) in the Hugli river only augments this disastrous problem, as the driver drains into the Bay of Bengal, carrying with it all the pollutants.
The Hugli river is one of the most extensive jute-processing regions, which requires abundant water for processing raw jute. Wastes and industrial effluents discharged in extremely large quantities directly flows into the Bay of Bengal, which poses an imminent threat to the ocean’s aquatic life.
In 2017, the Times of India had reported that the river contains 1,60,000 faecalcoli form bacteria per 100 ml, a clear sign of human excreta (WHO has capped the safe limit at 1000 per 100 ml). The high level of pollution is due to improper and inefficient waste management.
Kolkata is also an important hub for leather tanning. There are several industrial tanning facilities along Hugli’s banks. The pollution caused by these has had a devasting impact on the river, the Bay of Bengal ocean, and a source of havoc for the rising pollution in Kolkata. Even bigger problem is the addition to illegal leather tanneries set up inconspicuously. These also release unchecked amounts of chemicals and toxins into the water body.
The effects of such actions are simply shocking. Over the course of 2-3 years, there has been a sharp decline in the number of shrimps found in the ocean. This is clearly an oversight into the water’s deplorable condition. The shrimps were subject to a disease called White Spot, which is a bacterial infection caused due to contaminated waters.
It is important to preserve Bay of Bengal’s beauty, history, and ecology for the protection of both the aquatic life, as well as the people’s livelihoods that depend on it. The government of Kolkata must implement some stringent measures to keep Hugli’s pollution in check, and save the Bay of Bengal.