Mumbai beaches unfit for bathing

Dipping into the water at the beaches could expose you to the risk of bacterial and swimming-associated gastrointestinal illness.

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Think twice before you take the plunge. The city’s beaches, which serve as stress-relievers for Mumbaikars, may be a source of disease too.

Dipping into the water at the beaches could expose you to the risk of bacterial and swimming-associated gastrointestinal illness. Reason: They are highly-polluted and infested with disease-causing pathogens.

Water samples collected from the beaches by the Maharashtra State Pollution Board (MPCB) have indicated a high concentration of faecal coliform and biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), both of which point to the presence of pathogens and bacteria in water.

The presence of faecal coliform indicates that the water has been contaminated with faecal material of humans or animals. While quality standards for water used for bathing and contact water sports demand that the faecal coliform level remains below 100 MPN (most probable number) per 100 mililitre (ml) of water and a BOD level of 3 miligram per litre (mg/l), most samples collected by the MPCB from the beaches showed a reading way in excess of the acceptable limit.

The Dadar Chowpatty is the worst polluted. The average faecal coliform concentration here is six times above the permissible limit, while BOD levels are eight times above it.

The city’s most popular beach — the Girgaon Chowpatty — is the second worst. The faecal coliform levels here are four times above the permissible limit, and the BOD levels five times in excess. The two pollutants were found to be present in excess at the Juhu and Versova beaches. However, the levels of contamination are comparatively less. 

MPCB monitored the water quality at these sites by testing samples over a two-year period. On the basis of the findings, Mahesh Pathak, member-secretary, MPCB, said that “at present pollution levels, these beaches were unfit for bathing”.
Beaches were not the only water source polluted. Creeks and harbours were victims of human abuse too. At the popular tourist spot, the Gateway of India, which is used as a harbour, the BOD levels were 47% above the limit, while coliform levels were 7% in the red.

Sea waters are Nariman Point were comparatively less infested with human feaces. However, BOD levels were high here too. Water quality at Worli sea face was comparatively good, MPCB sources said. Among the creeks, while Mahim and portions of Thane abutting the mainland were highly polluted, the water quality was comparatively good at the portion (on Thane creek) near the Elephanta island. Pathak, however, said that plastic waste was a concern at Elephanta.

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