Pollution in North-Eastern Rivers

Pollution in North-Eastern rivers

India is a land of many rivers which hold cultural, religious and social significance in the lives of people. India’s North-Eastern part despite having less land share holds 30% potential in India’s water resources. The river Brahmaputra is the main river that flows all along the length of Assam in braided channels and is fed by many tributaries.

Talking about river pollution in India instantly gives a picture of Ganga, Yamuna which are among the most polluted rivers. However, rivers in North-Eastern part too are a victim of growing pollution.


According to the latest State of India’s Environment Report, nearly 60 river stretches across NE India have been recognized as polluted based on biological oxygen demand measure by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).

Biological oxygen demand or BOD is a popular pollution-checking measure which denotes the amount of oxygen required by microorganisms to break down the organic material present in water bodies.

The State of India’s Environment Report is annually published by the Centre for Science and Environment based in Delhi. The report presents a grim reality of the consequences of urbanization near these rivers.

Among various rivers, some of them are- Bharalu, Basistha, Kolong, Boko and Kopili in Assam; Wahumkhrah, Umshyrpi, Waikhyrwi, Rawaka, Kmai-um, Um-Mynkseh, Umpai, Mynkseh and Sarbang in Meghalaya; Nambul and Kongba in Manipur; Chite in Mizoram; Dhansiri in Nagaland and Gumti in Tripura.

The main reasons of pollution in these rivers are-

  • Discharge of industrial effluents
  • Effluents generated by coal-mining
  • Discharge of sewage primarily in urban regions


Discharge of untreated sewage is the most common cause of river pollution across India. Such pollution is mostly localised near urban areas marked with high population density.

According to the report, in India more than 60% of the sewage is released directly into the rivers without any treatment. Therefore making half of India’s river polluted.


Stretches in Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland are highly polluted due to unscientific coal mining. North-Eastern states have reserves of sub-bituminous tertiary coal.

Unscientific mining practices include rat-hole mining which is now banned by NGT. It is mostly practiced in Meghalaya and poses serious threat to human life, rivers and environment. This coal, whether extracted in scientific or unscientific way poses serious health-hazards, environmental degradation and contamination of surface and groundwater resources.

Water is used in mine cooling, mine drainage, etc. which is then contaminated with harmful chemicals and is released untreated into the surroundings and rivers directly.

Other factors responsible for river pollution in India are- washing clothes, bathing, throwing items during religious practices in the river. Also, oil leaks and reduction in water flow in plains are some more causes.

Apart from environmental degradation and loss of aquatic lives, polluted streams of rivers give birth to various vector-borne diseases such as diarrhea, jaundice, cholera. It also serves as a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other insects.


It is ironic to note that, the flooding in Brahmaputra and other tributaries creates a menace in people’s lives, however, it also helps in diluting the organic waste present in the rivers. Despite this, rivers like Bharauli, Bhagdoi, Kolong, Imphal, Tlawng are filled with sludge to such an extent that even in the rainy season pollution is heavy let alone the dry season.


Serious policy interventions, restoration and conservation must be undertaken to prevent the situation from turning into like that of Yamuna, Ganga or Sabarmati.

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