Being a brilliant country that consists of a billion people in the population and a country rich in culture and diversity, India not only has a good side but is also considered as the world’s most significant contributor to polluting water. 

More than 3,00,000 infants die every year due to diarrhea caused by polluted water in India! Let’s look at the ten factors of life-threatening water pollution in India.

Table of Contents

1. Industrial waste

Waste From Industries
Waste From Industries | Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons

Industry wastes are the most common sources of water pollution in India. 

Industries produce massive amounts of waste, containing dangerous chemicals and toxins, polluting the air and damaging our environment and ourselves. 

They have lead, mercury, sulfur, nitrates, asbestos, and other toxic substances. 

Many Indian businesses release waste into freshwater, which runs into canals, rivers, and finally into the sea due to an inadequate waste management system.

Toxic substances can affect the color of the water, increase the number of minerals in it (a process called eutrophication), change water temperature, and pose a severe threat to aquatic life.

2. Withdrawl of water

Dry Godawari River
Dry Godawari River | Image Credit – Wikimedia Commons

The highest reaches of Indian rivers, particularly the Himalayan Rivers, are brimming with water. 

They are, however, dehydrated when they reach the plains. When irrigation canals get to the tables, they drain pure water from rivers, preventing water from flowing downstream.

Water from small, minor streams and drains carrying untreated sewage and effluents trickles into the river. 

Unless a significant river augments the diminished flows, the river-turned drain will move downstream with little or no freshwater. 

Because the amount of fresh water in the river is so tiny, pollution—whether from urban and rural regions, industries, or even natural types of pollution—can not be diluted and mitigate its negative consequences. 

At Tajewala in Haryana, where the Eastern Yamuna Canal and the Western Yamuna Canal take all the water for irrigation, the Yamuna has almost little water.

Similarly, the Upper Ganga Canal and the Lower Ganga Canal have almost completely dried up the Ganga downstream. 

The Yamuna and Ganga rivers become smelly sewers passing through Delhi and Kanpur. 

3. Religious, social practices

Social practices
Social practices | Image Credit – Flickr

India is mainly known for its religion and culture worldwide, but river waters are polluted by religious faith and societal practices due to these religious festivities. 

The carcasses of cattle and other animals are tossed into rivers. Bodies are burned along the riverbanks. 

Partially charred bodies are also dumped into the river. Everything is done in religion and following ancient customs; these practices taint and degrade river water quality. 

Mass swimming in a river on religious holidays is another environmentally dangerous practice. 

However, according to studies, when thousands of people simultaneously take a ‘holy plunge,’ the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) escalates.

Puja offerings also must be immersed in a river. Offerings are increasingly being submerged in plastic bags. 

Plastic bags are pretty harmful and contribute to the air pollution of the river. 

4. Improper agriculture practices

Improper agriculture practices
Improper agriculture practices | Image Credit – Pixahive

Traces of fertilizers and pesticides are poured into surrounding water bodies at the start of the monsoon season or during heavy rains. 

These agricultural inputs are classified as non-point causes of pollution since their entry point is dispersed throughout the river basin. 

Even though irrigation has risen significantly in the country, little has been done to address the problem of excessive salt return water.

Punjab and Haryana are in this scenario. The 40-kilometer-long drain No. 8 in Haryana discharges 250,000 kg of chlorides each day into the Yamuna, raising the river’s chloride concentration from 32 mg per liter close upstream to 150 mg per liter just downstream of the drain confluence. The majority of these chlorides come from agricultural runoff. 

The CPCB discovered that some seepages into the sewer include above 15,000 mg of chlorides per liter. 

Chemical fertilizers, insecticides, weedicides, and other chemicals are being used extensively and at an ever-increasing rate, adding a new dimension to pollution.

5. Oil leaks from ships

Oil leaks from ships
Oil leaks from ships | Image Credit – Flickr

In a country rich in economy, ships are the most common means to transport goods from one place to another. 

As the entire scope of the disaster becomes clear, scientists and environmentalists are urging the worldwide shipping industry to modify marine rules to prevent future tragedies.

After a Japanese ship’s cargo of 4,000 tonnes of heavy fuel oil leaked into the Indian Ocean, it affected the country’s mangrove wetlands. 

Reptiles and waterbirds were covered in sticky fuel oil. Coastal ecosystems are vulnerable targets for oil spills. 

According to research published in August 2008, the 650-ton oil bulk carrier MV Ocean Seraya leaked near Karwar on India’s west coast harmed marine fisheries and had a long-term impact on aquatic biota.

6. Sewage and Wastewater

 Sewage and Wastewater
Sewage and Wastewater | Image Credit – Flickr

Each household’s sewage and wastewater is chemically cleaned before dumping into the sea with fresh water. 

Pathogens, a typical water pollutant, and other hazardous bacteria and chemicals are carried in sewage water and can cause significant health problems and diseases.

In India, untreated sewage is the principal polluter of water sources, resulting in a variety of ailments such as diarrhea (which kills 350,000 Indian children every year), agricultural pollution, and environmental damage. 

The urban poor frequently dwells near filthy drains and canals where mosquitoes and viruses thrive.

The sewage systems in India’s major cities are centralized, with underground pipes, pumping stations, and treatment plants. 

On the other hand, these systems are costly to create and operate since they require constant electricity, expert operators, and substantial upkeep.

Waterborne microorganisms are known to produce a variety of severe diseases and to serve as breeding grounds for critters that act as carriers. 

Through various sorts of interaction, these carriers infect an individual with these diseases. Malaria is an excellent example.

7. Dumping Waste

Dumping Waste
Dumping Waste | Image Credit – Flickr

Almost 70% of wastewater remained untreated, and over 40 million liters of effluent run straight into India’s lakes, rivers, and oceans every day. 

Contaminated water eventually finds its way into the groundwater. As a result, appropriate waste management and sewage contamination are impossible, causing the irrigation system to malfunction. 

The crops cannot grow because of the contagious germs and sickness in the water. 

Every year, 38 million Indians get waterborne diseases such as typhoid, cholera, and hepatitis due to poor infrastructure and sewage treatment. 

The frequency of these ailments has remained constant throughout the last decade.

8. Acid Rain

Acid Rain
Acid Rain | Image Credit – Flickr

Another common source of water pollution is acid rain. It is a form of river pollution brought on by air pollution

Acid rain happens when air pollution and water vapor mix to produce acidic particles in the atmosphere. 

People’s health is at high risk as hazardous toxins are released into the bodies of water. Acid rain also causes the leaching of essential nutrients from the soil, impacting plants. 

When acid-deposit snow melts, a more significant acid concentration is produced, harming aquatic marine life.

Acid rain has a slew of negative consequences. It throws off the chemical balance in bodies of water, releasing hazardous metals. 

Acid rain also causes the leaching of essential nutrients from the soil, impacting plants. 

When acid-deposit snow melts, a more significant acid concentration is produced, harming fish. 

Buildings are also eroded by acid rain, as evidenced by the Taj Mahal.

Another issue raised by U Kulshrestha of the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology in Hyderabad is acid rain over oceans. 

When the wind sweeps from land to sea in South Asia during the winter, it transports effluents from India, China, and Japan. 

The alkaline dust suspension is cumbersome and cannot be transported very far. 

As a result, the rains in the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, and the Bay of Bengal have turned acidic.

9. Eutrophication

Eutrophication | Image Credit – Geograph

Increased nutrient levels in aquatic bodies are known as eutrophication. Algae bloom in the water as a result of this. 

It also depletes oxygen in the water, severely impacting fish and other aquatic animals. 

The largest urban sources of nutrient overload are industrial wastes and home sewage, which account for half of the total quantity of phosphorus dumped into lakes by human populations. 

Phosphorus-containing wastewater effluents are discharged into rivers and lakes by around 15% of the Indian population, resulting in eutrophication.

Fertilizer use, defective septic systems, and erosion into the lake are all factors that lead to cultural eutrophication

The largest source of excess phosphorus responsible for damaging rivers and lakes is industrial agriculture, which relies on phosphate-rich fertilizers.

10. Urbanization

Urbanization | Image Credit – Flickr

Lastly, the most common cause of water pollution in India is water pollution. Rapid urbanization from a village to a country’s capital has a significant reason and is the root of water pollution. 

Water is drawn for domestic and industrial usage in metropolitan areas from rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, wells, and other sources. 

Nearly 80% of the water used for household purposes is discharged as wastewater. 

Most of the time, this effluent is discharged untreated, polluting surface water on a vast scale.

A portion of it seeps into the earth, contaminating the water supply. Class I cities (those with a population of more than one lakh people) produce up to 16,662 MLD (million liters per day) of wastewater. 

Sewerage is available to around 70% of the population in class I cities. The Ganga river basin accounts for almost one-third of India’s total sewage.

Heavy metal traces are currently not removed from municipal water treatment plants in India. 

Given that highly contaminated rivers are the primary source of municipal water for most towns and cities along their paths, it is assumed that every consumer has been exposed to unknown amounts of contaminants in the water they have eaten over time. 

Furthermore, due to the fast population increase, Indian towns and cities have evolved in an unplanned manner.


As the world becomes more advanced, we should recognize that technological advancement must accompany development. 

It’s important to remember the value of biodiversity and aquatic life, as well as people’s welfare.

(Last Updated on April 30, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Thinley Doma Ghale holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work from Kathmandu University. She enjoys writing articles on climate change animals and loves to travel and experience new ideas, places, meeting people, and learning from them. As a social science student, research has always been her area of interest.