February 14

Move for US-aided research on Ganga pollution

DIPAK MISHRA
TIMES OF INDIA
FEBRUARY 14, 2002

PATNA: There is a move for US-aided research on the chemical and biological effects of pollution on the Ganga.

Mohammad Omair of the Centre for Great Lake and Aquatic Science of the University of Michigan (USA) is leading the bid to carry out this mega research project. He is currently gathering samples from different parts of the entire stretch of the river. "The project is in its preliminary stage, and if it is carried out, I am not in a position to say how much time and money it is going to take," stated Omair while speaking to Times News Network on Wednesday.

His project will involve stations being set up along the entire stretch of Ganga and sophisticated equipment being brought from the USA.

Omair hopes that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at Ann Arbor town in Michigan will finance the project. He will be joining hands with noted environmentalist R K Sinha of Patna University, who has done pioneering work for saving the Ganga dolphins from becoming extinct.

A native of Patna, Omair has been living in the USA for the last 45 years. The idea of carrying out a comprehensive research on the chemical contamination of the Ganga and planktonic flora and fauna is based on a short-term research he did in Patna almost six years ago.

He collected water samples from the Ganga on December 27, 1996 at Buddha Ghat in Patna. The samples were subsequently sent to different laboratories of the University of Michigan and to scientists at the NOAA for analysis. The results were alarming. The concentration of mercury was approximately 40 times higher than the permissible limits. The level of lead was also nine times higher. "In the USA, the level of mercury is not even half of this level and yet a few species have been lost," he pointed out while insisting that the river is getting increasingly polluted and may cause serious health hazards in future.

Omair said Lake Erie, one of the five largest lakes of the USA, became dead biologically due to dumping of toxic wastes by industries. "It was due to the efforts of scientists that the lake could be brought back to life," he stated.

Omair drew worldwide attention to his work made public in 1999 when he found disturbing mysterious tumours in some of the smallest creatures (zooplanktons) swimming near the shore of Lake Michigan. Since then his lab has been receiving samples from all over the world as scientists feel that the small creatures are a critical link in the food chain. "What effect these tumours are having on plants and animals in rivers and even on humans consuming fish is yet to be found out," he maintained.