Protecting Powai Lake
May 27, 2015
Green Your City India Series
Ten years ago, heavy rains battered down throughout the state of Maharashtra in western India. With some of the worst rains the area had seen, flash floods caused by monsoon rains shut down cities and airports, stopped communications and changed the lives of thousands of people. That July 26, 2005 over 5,000 people were killed and many others lost their homes and livelihoods.
With that in mind, The Young Environmentalists Programme Trust (YEPT) participated in Earth Day Network-Indiaशहर GREEN करो – It’s Our Turn to Lead Contest by creating a plan of action to make Earth Day Every Day in the Mumbai neighborhood of Powai. In the 2005 floods, the nearby Powai Lake began to overflow and discharged thousands of liters of water into the Mithi River. Mumbai, the capital of the Maharashtra and India’s financial capital, stranded 150,000 people between railways and throughout the city.
YEPT found that sewage pollution in the Powai Lake magnifies the growth of water weeds and hyacinths. The Mithi River also runs through many densely populated areas, aggregating sewage as it flows. Almost 80% of domestic water enters waterways untreated in India. Some reports have also claimed that only 40-50% of large cities like Mumbai are serviced by sewer systems.
Mumbai already has a population of around 20 million and with that many people, proper sewage and water treatment systems are desperately needed. This population aggravates the combination of sewage, pollution, and excess plant growth in the lake, causing both the lake and river to overflow during heavy monsoon rains causing flooding similar to that of the Maharashtra flood.
YEPT knew it was essential to develop a clean up campaign for Powai and its waterways. YEPT surveyed the Powai Lake silt traps and storm water drains that feed into the lake. Taking action, the NGO is encouraging nearby hydraulic departments to renew contracts for Powai Lake distillation plants before the monsoon rains hit the region. YEPT also held a clean and green drive to distribute cloth bags to citizens and fish market vendors who typically use plastic bags that eventually run into the Powai Lake, harming water quality and marine life.
YEPT’s continued and substantial environmental work awarded them third place in 2015’s It’s Our Turn to Lead contest. More efforts to save the Mithi River and Powai Lake can be found in Earth Day Network India’s eBook Pathways to Green Cities – Innovative Ideas from Urban India Volume II.