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According to legends, the river is considered to be the daughter of Sage Vashistha. During solar eclipse, devotees believe that taking a bath in the Gomti is equivalent to the bath taken in the river in Kurukshetra.
When life-giving water becomes cause of death, the situation is alarming to say the least. The Lucknowites are exposed to this brutal reality. And, sadly, most of it is the result of their own making.
Historically, Gomati has served as a waterway, source of fish and water and provided livelihood to dwellers along the Avadh plains. Because of this important role, a number of big and small towns developed on its banks. The growing inflow of pollutants in the river now has destabilised its self-purification mechanism. Result: Water becoming unsafe for use.
"Two kinds of wastes are discharged into the river - organic and inorganic. The organic waste can be self-purified by the river due to presence of certain microrganisms but toxic wastes pollute the river,"says NBRI scientist UN Rai. "The bacterial pollution in the river is increasing due to the discharge of organic wastes - human excreta, sewage waste, polythenes, municipal garbage and toxic discharge from the factories which flow into the storm drains, mixing with common water and subsequently posing a serious threat to the human population. Not only this this water also percolates into the ground water, causing unimaginable havoc,"he adds.
Heavy metals like, copper, zinc, magnesium iron and chromium have been found in large quantities in the river water. However their percentages differ in summers and winters.
These metals are very harmful to the humans, plants as well as animals - the most harmful among them being Chromium, which has carcinogenic properties. It can also cause ulcer in the elementary canal. Higher concentration of other metals can cause different ailments like lung and kidney disorder, skin diseases, etching in the eyes, hair problems. "These heavy metals especially Chromium can cause brain disorders like memory loss and if consumed regularly for along duration can also cause epilepsy,"said director Indian Toxicology research centre, YK Gupta.
Children in the age group of 0-6 and 6-10 are at a maximum risk. It can also lead to retardation of mental development. Pregnant women are also at a high risk.
"Scientist at NBRI have developed certain micro-organisms which can accumulate and thereby remove these metals from the water. These micro-organism are in the form of blue-green alge which help in toxic reduction,"said Rai.