A team of researchers from IIT Madras led by Dr Ligy Philip, Nita, and KG Ganapathi, Institute Chair Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, IIT Madras, quantified the seasonal distribution of emerging contaminants and pollutants in Cauvery. This study has been carried out with joint funding from Water Technology Initiatives of the Department of Science and Technology and the UK Natural Environment Research Council.
The team found that water quality and levels of pharmaceutical contaminants in the Cauvery are influenced by the monsoon. The post-monsoon period showed an increased level of various types of contaminants, including pharmaceuticals due to reduced riverine flow and continuous waste discharge from multiple sources. Pharmaceutical contamination is particularly serious as these drug compounds, when released even in minuscule amounts can harm human beings and the ecosystem in the long run, according to the researchers. There was significant contamination by metals such as arsenic, zinc, chromium, lead and nickel. Freshwater intake points were also found to be loaded with high concentrations of pharmaceutical pollutants..
Highlighting the important findings of the research, Dr Ligy Philip said, “We monitored the water quality of Cauvery for two years to assess the seasonal variation of emerging contaminants, especially pharmaceutically active compounds. Our observations are alarming. So far, not much is known about how it affect human health and the ecosystem. The team’s environmental risk assessment has shown that pharmaceutical contaminants pose medium to high risk to lifeforms of riverine system.”