'Sweet' water attracts thousands to Mumbai beach

'Sweet' water attracts thousands to Mumbai beach
Mumbai, Aug 19 (PTI) Thousands of people thronged the Mahim beach here after reports that the waters of the Arabian Sea had miraculously turned sweet, but the authorities said it was not an unusual phenomenon and warned the water was dangerous to drink.

Reports of a similar phenomenon also came in from Gujarat's Valsad district, and officials explained the salinity of the sea water may have been reduced due to the inflow of fresh water from swollen rivers and an upsurge of groundwater after the heavy rains of the past few days.

Despite the official explanations, people were seen collecting the murky water in bottles and plastic bags to take it home. Children and women drank the water on the beach, claiming the phenomenon was a miracle.

Police said fishermen had last night first noticed that sea water in the area had become sweet, and the reports spread after they told local residents about it.

The phenomenon was initially noticed in the vicinity of the dargah of Baba Maqdoom, located on the Mahim creek, giving rise to people's claims that the water was "holy". Today's scenes brought back memories of reports in September 1995 about Lord Ganesh's statues drinking milk and the frenzy associated with it.

Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh appealed to people not to drink the water as it could contain "dangerous substances".

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation said the phenomenon was not unusual and also cautioned people that it would be dangerous to drink the water.

BMC Commissioner Johnny Joseph told reporters, "We have taken samples of the water from various spots in the city including the Mahim dargah. We have also taken an opinion from the National Institute of Oceanography in Goa and they have told us that this phenomena is not unusual. This can be caused by heavy rainfall and low tide.

"The Mahim creek is located in a semi-enclosed area where fresh water and sea water mix especially during low tide, which caused the dilution. Also the Vihar lake on the outskirts of Mumbai has been overflowing for the past few days and has flown into the Mithi river, which could be the reason for the water tasting sweet."

Tests conducted by BMC's health department showed salt level in the sea water was as low as 600 particles per million, compared to the normal level of 10,000 ppm.

The Maharashtra Pollution Control Board said the phenomenon could have been caused by an upsurge of groundwater. "Due to heavy rainfall in the area, the groundwater gets fully charged and may exert excess pressure. This can cause fine cracks in the rocky bottom through which groundwater tends to come out," said MPCB Member Secretary Dilip Boralkar.

Reports about sea water turning sweet also came in from the coastal area of Teethal in Gujarat's Valsad district, where numerous people considered the phenomenon a miracle and worshipped the water.

"The Arabian Sea water has turned a bit sweeter.

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