Bioethics in India: Proceedings of the International Bioethics Workshop in Madras: Biomanagement of Biogeoresources, 16-19 Jan. 1997, University of Madras; Editors: Jayapaul Azariah, Hilda Azariah, & Darryl R.J. Macer, Copyright Eubios Ethics Institute 1997.

74. Perception of Environmental Ethics of buffalo rearing on the banks of the River Cooum in Chennai, Tamil Nadu

Pamela Sahayadas and Jayapaul Azariah*
Department of Zoology, Women's Christian College, Chennai 600 006
*Department of Zoology, University of Madras, Guindy campus, Chennai 600 025

For the present study a perception approach was used to identify and measure people's evaluation of the River Cooum environment. The central notion of the perception approach is that human decision making and behaviour can best be explained with reference to the perceived reality; "the world inside our heads". The challenge is to define and measure the parameters of this internal framework and to relate them to "Objective reality" (White, 1983).

Environmental perception is the human awareness and understanding of the environment in a general sense of the term; its research shares a paradigm of man-environment relationship in which man's individual and collective understanding of the environment is seen as a major force in shaping the environment through the action of man's choices and behaviour.

The word `ethics' refers to the complicated framework within which we form our basic values (Becker, 1995). The framework could be moral, philosophical, rational or spiritual. Macer (1990) defined `morals' as judgments on individual activity and `values' as stated expressions of the cultural framework within which these judgments are made. The values relating to nature and environment would be the subject matter of Environmental ethics (Leopold, 1949 and Azariah, 1994)

Environmental ethics is a new and emerging field of science which emphasizes a balanced attitude to human-nature relationship. The recent two studies carried out by Indira (1991) and Kanthimathi (1992) are among the important pioneering works in the field of Environmental ethics in an Indian context.

In the present study, an attempt has been made to study the perception of various groups such as buffalo milk consumers, buffalo rearers, neighbours, milk vendors and Aavin milk consumers on the Cooum river ecosystem and to develop a set of guidelines and regulations for the preservation and protection of the Cooum river ecosystem.

Objective of the Study

To study the perception of different people's groups (buffalo milk consumers, buffalo rearers, neighbours, milk vendors and Aavin milk consumers) about the actual polluted condition prevailing in the Cooum river and to analyze the implication of people's ethical values regarding the environmental degradation based on their perception.

Materials and Methods

For perception study, initially a set of four hypotheses were framed. They are:

Hypothesis No. I: Consequent to revising the previous two studies on the environmental perception, the following 8 apriori factors were predicted: 1. Pollution; 2. Diseases/Health; 3. Environmental awareness; 4. Education; 5. Improvement; 6. Milk; 7. Water; 8. Buffalo rearing. After factor analysis, 10 factors emerged out. Based on these, the following additional hypotheses were formulated.

Hypothesis II: Aavin milk consumers and buffalo milk consumers will not differ in their perception of all the 10 factors.

Hypothesis III: Buffalo rearers, neighbours, and milk vendors will not differ in their perception of all the 10 factors.

After comparing the perception of the 5 groups, on the basis of ANOVA comparison, Hypothesis IV was framed.

Hypothesis IV: Buffalo rearers and neighbours and milk vendors will be better in their perception regarding these factors than Aavin milk consumers and Buffalo milk consumers since they live in that environment and their experience is better than the milk consumers.

A questionnaire on the perception of pollution at buffalo rearing area along the bank of River Cooum was prepared. For the construction of the questionnaire, a set of 50 variables was selected. These 50 variables were in the form of statements describing the environmental condition of the bank of River Cooum. The respondents could show their degree of agreement or disagreement to the statements with the scaled value. A five point scale was used. The five points in the scale have been graded as 1. Strongly disagree, 2. disagree, 3. neutral, 4. agree, 5. strongly agree.

The fifty items in the questionnaire were tentatively classified under 8 apriori factors such as 1. pollution, 2. disease/health, 3. environmental awareness, 4. education, 5. improvement, 6. milk, 7. water and 8. buffalo rearing.

All the statements under each apriori factor was shuffled and framed into a questionnaire. Questionnaire was printed both in English and Tamil. The questionnaire was administered to different groups of people. The study has used a random sampling technique. The sample included 370 individuals who willingly responded. The questionnaire was administered to respondents belonging to the following groups: Buffalo milk consumers (112); Buffalo rearers (75); Neighbours (24); Milk vendors (61); Aavin milk consumers (98). Administration of the questionnaire and collection were carried out for a period of 18 months. For this purpose three station were selected along the bank of River Cooum: Annanagar, Choolaimedu and Chetpet.

After collection of data, the statistical analysis such as Factor analysis, ANOVA and t-test were used to find out the difference in perception of various groups. Statistical analysis helps in accepting or rejecting the formulated hypothesis for the study of perception of pollution at the buffalo rearing areas of Cooum river bank by the 5 major groups of people.

In Factor analysis the variables are reduced into meaningful factors. Consequent to Factor analysis, 10 factors were extracted. Each factor is not related to the other factor. The variables within a factor are closely related. The extracted 10 factors were: 1. Diseases; 2. Pollution; 3. Health; 4. Buffalo rearing; 5. Awareness; 6. Knowledge of environment; 7. Environmental improvement; 8. Impact of Cooum; 9. Education; 10. Pollution prevention. ANOVA was computed to find out the conflicts between the groups in environmental perception in each of the 10 factors. If the groups differed significantly in a particular factor as seen in ANOVA, t-test is further carried out to find out the differences in perception between any two groups at a time.

The results revealed that all the 4 hypotheses formulated are partially accepted. Perception of various groups varies. Buffalo rearers and neighbours have a better perception of the environment than the other 3 groups.

Azariah, J. 1994. Global bioethics and Common hope. In Bioethics for the people by the people. Darryl R.J. Macer, Eubios Ethics Institute. pp. 98-112.
Becker, K. Gerhold, 1995. Asian and Western Ethics: Some Remarks on a Productive Tension. EJAIB 5 (1995):31-33.
Indira, R.S., 1991. Environmental perception of Kapaleeswarar Temple. Ph.D. Thesis, Univ. Madras, India.
Kanthimathi, K., 1992. Environmental perception of Marina Beach. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Madras, India
Leopold, A., 1949. A Sand Country Almanac. Oxford University Press. London. pp.226.
Macer, R.J. Darryl, 1990. Shaping Genes. Ethics, Law and Science of Using New Genetic Technology in Medicine and Agriculture. Eubios Ethics Institute. pp.2
White, A., 1983. Perception Studies in Approaches to the study of the environmental implications of Contemporary Urbanization (White, R. & Ian Burton, Eds). MAB Technical Notes, 14. UNESCO, pp.103.

76. Pollution load and health of the Cooum river system

Pamela Sahayadas and Jayapaul Azariah*.
Department of Zoology, Women's Christian College, Chennai - 600 006
*Department of Zoology, University of Madras, Guindy campus, Chennai - 600 025

The name of Cooum appears to be derived from Tamil Literature. The word "coovalan" denotes a person who is well versed in the science of ground water, well water and stagnant water. It is likely that the River Cooum might have derived its name from such an usage (Rajamanickam, 1970; Mudaliar, 1981). River Cooum starts as a drainage course collecting surpluses of 75 small tanks of a minor basin. The length of the river is about 65 km, of which 18 km, fall within the city limits (Sundaresan, 1986). The Kesavaram Anicut (Anicut: Tamil word for dam) diverts the river into the Chembarambakkam lake from which water is utilized for the supply of drinking water to the city of Madras. Therefore, the flow of water in the river is totally reduced. The second problem that affects the river stems from the human activity which began during the late 1800's (Azariah and Azariah, 1987b). The first activity was the building of a harbour.

In the year 1979, the Cooum river was receiving a sewage discharge of 39 mld. The 1981 census reported a population of 4.2 million which is about a six fold increase within a period of 50 years. Consequently the city generated about 75 million gallons per day as sewage refuse (Daivamani, 1986). As a result, the fecal coliform bacterial load reached a highest level of 24 x 106 bacteria per 100 ml of water (Azariah et al., 1982). The oxygen content was reduced to a level below which fishes could not live (Azariah and Azariah, 1987a). According to reports, Cooum river, in the year 1949, sustained a total number of 49 species of fish (Ganapati, 1964). Abraham (1962) reported that there were about 30 species of fish in the years 1957-59. During the years 1975-79, a total number of about 21 species of fish were recorded (Azariah and Azariah, 1987c). Currently, no fish inhabit the water.

The River Cooum carries sullage, sewage and cattle wash. The River Cooum is stagnant and contains a lot of silt. The silt is supposed to be two to three feet deep at certain places (Rao, 1986). It is reported that the net amount of silt deposited in the river is 3200 tonnes/year. The stagnant waters offer a suitable breeding ground for mosquitoes, making the lives of the citizens of Madras more miserable (Kothandaraman et al., 1986)

The Cooum river is a typical example of biodegradation of a natural water course. It enters Madras city limits near Arumbakkam and winds its way through the city for about 18 km flowing through Choolaimedu, Chetpet, Egmore and Chindadripet (Kothandaraman et al., 1986). Because of its twisting course through the heart of the city, the River Cooum carries the major portion of the storm water drainage from Madras city during the rainy season. This serves to flush and clean the Cooum. But it is the waste water which finds its way into the Cooum when there is no rain fall which creates most of reparine environmental problems (Daivamani, 1986).

Urban growth on either side of the river without adequate storm and sanitary sewers, has brought about an adverse impact on the river ecosystem. The water body has been subjected to heavy stress due to organic pollution, thus preventing it from regenerating itself (Sundaresan, 1986). The city population with the fast growing slums has grown several times the strength for which the sewer lines have been originally designed. The quantity of the sewage which they were designed to carry is also far different from what the designers would have anticipated (Mohanakrishnan, 1986). Several places along the banks are used to rear and perpetuate buffaloes.

There are as many as 3,500 unauthorised hutments situated on the bank of River Cooum and these directly dump garbage, excreta and sullage into the Cooum (Azariah and Azariah, 1987). Several public latrines have been constructed along the course of the river. They directly let off fecal material and urine into the river. Several hotels in the city are discharging sewage into Cooum at various points (Rao, 1986). Therefore, far from being an asset to the city, the Cooum has turned into a black spot mainly due to the human activities (Kothandaraman et al., 1986). There is no evidence that this river water is used for human consumption. Several buffaloes in the River Cooum are immersed head deep. It is quite likely that certain amount of Cooum water enters the gastro-intestinal tracts of the animals by direct and indirect methods. Cattle and pigs are washed in this water (Rao, 1986).

In view of the importance of the Cooum river in the activity of people such as washing animals like cows and buffaloes, it was decided to obtain data on the quality of water by carrying out bacteriological investigations using total coliform, fecal coliform, E. coli and fecal streptococci as pollution indicators.

Cooum is an "eye sore" to permanent residents and visitors alike and is not conducive to healthy and decent living. Even though several aspects of pollution of River Cooum had been studied since 1950s, no work had been carried out so far on the impact of rearing of buffaloes along the banks of River Cooum where there is no separate facility to carry the animal wastes. The animal fecal wastes are directly let into the stagnant water. Hence, it was proposed to study this aspect of pollution, i.e., impact of buffalo rearing along the bank of River Cooum on the water quality of the river.

Various aspects pertaining to pollution in River Cooum and their impact on public health were studied by Azariah et al. during 1980-88. Azariah et al. (1980) investigated the aquaculture practices in brackish water area of River Cooum. Azariah et al. (1982) envisaged the health risks due to high incidence of fecal coliform bacteria in the River Cooum. Azariah et al. (1984) discussed the impact of the bacterial contamination in the River Cooum on some of the fishes of coastal Madras. Azariah (1984) reported the biological use of the mussel, Perna viridis in the health of River Cooum to reduce the bacterial load in the river. Azariah (1987) assessed the environmental impact caused by pollution in Cooum estuary.

Kothandaraman (1972) reported on the increase in the ammonia content in the ground water near Hotel Arun due to the influence of River Cooum. Sundaresan (1979) studied the water courses in Madras city and suggested that the Cooum was heavily polluted by effluents from a variety of industries.

Even though interest on the hydrobiological features of the River Cooum was initiated as early as 1937, only a few records are available on biological investigation which cover some aspects of the river system. In a detailed account, Ganapati (1964) gave a vivid description of the hydrobiological constituents of the river for the year 1949, and emphasised the relationship between hydrology and fisheries with special reference to pollution. Narayanan (1980) suggested that implementation of aquaculture would convert the river into a resource.

The Madras Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewage Board, in 1978, as a service to the public, constructed diaphragm chambers (setting chambers) in about 100 cattle yards in the city to prevent cow dung and wastes entering the sewers and blocking them (Daivamani, 1986). Fecal pollution in River Cooum was studied by Narayanan (1980)and Azariah et al. (1982 and 1984). In the present study, the degree of pollution at 3 different stations in River Cooum near the buffalo rearing area was studied.

Materials and Methods

A stretch of 2 km along the bank of River Cooum at Spurtank Road, Chetpet was chosen for the present investigation. Three stations were established for the purpose of collection of water samples and field experiments along a 2 km stretch on the bank of the river, where people near buffaloes and cows in open yard.

Station I was located 1 km west of the buffalo yard. Station II was located at the place where urine and faeces of buffaloes were directly discharged into the river and Station III was located 1 km east of the buffalo yard.

All the 3 stations were sampled for a period of 2 years from February 1989 to January 1991. Samples were collected once a month for the estimation of a total of eleven physico-chemical variables - 1. Temperature, 2. pH, 3. Dissolved oxygen, 4. Salinity, 5. Carbonate, 6. Bicarbonate, 7. Ammonia, 8. Nitrate, 9. Nitrite, 10. Phosphate, 11. Silicate and bacterial density of 1. total coliform, 2. fecal coliform, 3. E. coli, 4. fecal streptococci.

Milk analysis

To find out whether the milk obtained from the buffaloes reared in this area is contaminated or not, milk samples were collected from buffaloes and cows reared along the bank of river Cooum and also from Aavin (Government Diary) milk booths. Bacteriological analyses of the milk samples were carried out.

Analysis of results with reference to the water quality indicated that the temperature of Cooum water followed that of the atmosphere. Uniform temperature conditions prevailed at all stations. The pH values ranged between 6.2 and 7.9 throughout the period of study. The pH values in all three stations were found to fluctuate uniformly. The DO in Cooum was nil. Salinity was very low in all three stations throughout the study period. Carbonates were absent. Maximum values for carbonates were noted at Station II. Ammonia concentration was high in Cooum river throughout the period of study. The levels of concentration of nitrate were higher in Stations II and III than in Station I. Phosphate contents seemed to be higher at Station II in Cooum river water. Silicate values were high and uniform in all three stations. E. coli occurred in all stations at all times. There was no significant variation between stations. Very high concentrations of fecal coliform were obtained at Stations II and III.

The concentrations of bicarbonate, nitrate and phosphate were always high in Station II where the effluents from the buffalo yard are discharged into the River Cooum. It was observed that the microorganisms, particularly the coliform bacteria were present in all the milk samples. The results of the present study provide evidence for the deleterious effects of letting out the untreated wastes into the river system. The addition of effluents from buffalo yard to river at Station II has resulted in changes in physico-chemical qualities of the river.

The results reported in the present study show that E. coli occurs at all stations and at all times and there is no significant variation between stations suggesting that a high level of fecal pollution maintained at all stations. The recorded range of E. coli exceeded all norms of bacteriological water quality standards. The very high concentrations of total coliform and fecal coliform are indications of bacteriological contamination. An assessment of fecal coliform is considered to be the more reliable indicator of water quality. The River Cooum has bacterial count that are more than thousand times (34.2 x 106/100 ml) the standard. There can be very little doubt that the Cooum is grossly polluted by effluent discharge and specially by fecal matter of buffaloes.

River Cooum is an open sewer, and therefore a serious threat to public health. The bacterial population of the river may have a significant relationship with the health of the people. In a previous study, it had been revealed the presence of fecal coliform bacteria was detected in purified drinking water supplied by the Madras Metropolitan Water Supply System (Narayanan and Azariah, 1989). Herbert (1979) while working out the relationship between water quality and protein malnutrition in children of Madras reported on-site contamination of fecal coliform in piped water supply. It is not that the Madras Metropolitan water is impure, but the clean portable piped-water gets contaminated by the seepage of E. coli laden water from stations of high concentration.

E. coli has been detected in the guts of various commercially important marine fishes and invertebrates like Emerita astrata (Azariah and Sekar, 1984). Since the River Cooum finally joins the sea, the marine, edible organisms may get infested with the bacteria. The fecal bacteria is transported to other organisms through the food chain. When the bacterial build-up in fishes passes a threshold concentration then it might lead to health hazards not only to fishes but also to human beings who are dependent upon fish protein.

Fecal coliform organisms are still considered as the indicators of bacterial pathogenic organisms in aquatic environments (APHAS, 1980). The very high concentrations of these organisms (>10/100 ml) encountered in Cooum river especially at Stations II and III in the present study, clearly indicate the potential health risk posed to the inhabitants in the study area. The abundance of fecal coliform bacteria in this area is mainly due to the buffalo and cattle faeces discharge. Thomson et al. (1994) reported that the River Cooum is found to pollute the ground water by seepage, due to the stagnation and improper drainage system and the ground water located adjacent to river Cooum, cannot be utilized for any domestic or drinking purpose. The high concentration of coliform bacteria is a matter of deep concern for the health of the inhabitants on the banks of the River Cooum, especially where buffaloes are reared. In addition to buffalo discharge, the slum dwellers on the banks of River Cooum directly let off animal faeces and urine into the Cooum. The increased density of bacteria at Stations II and III might be due to rich nutrients and high organic matter present in these stations. The people themselves have no good toilet facilities. Unless proper steps are taken, this will reflect on the health hazards of the people who are residing along the banks of the River Cooum where buffaloes are reared.

Seepage of water from river system to drinking water supply system may be one of the significant factors that result in the contamination of the drinking water by coliform group and fecal streptococci. Drinking water pipes cross over River Cooum, so they get contaminated.

The results reported in the present study show that the range of E. coli exceeded all norms of bacteriological water quality standards. This water is used for washing of cattle and buffaloes and in some areas of the river it is used for washing clothes. Several buffaloes in the Cooum river are seen immersed head deep. It is quite likely that certain amount of Cooum water enters the gastrointestinal tracts of the animals by direct and indirect methods. The milk obtained from the buffaloes reared here may be contaminated through improper washing of udder of buffaloes.

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