Thinking to Make Ganga “Clean” Again!
Verse 31 of Chapter 10 of Bhagavad Gita says that:-
“पवनः पवतामस्मि रामः शस्त्रभृतामहम् । झषाणां मकरश्चास्मि स्रोतसामस्मि जाह्नवी ॥
“I am the wind among purifiers; I am Rama among warriors; and I am the alligator among fishes; among the rivers Ganges am I.”
Ganga is a major river in India, finding its roots in the Himalayas and covering about 2,510 km area i.e.1560 miles.
Briefly talking about its origin, it is the Bhagirathi River in the Uttarakhand Himalayas, where glacial water flows from a cave at Gaumukh. 23 kilometers from Gaumukh, the river reaches Gangotri, the first town on its path, where it joins the Alaknanda River at Devaprayag, which is also in the Uttarakhand to form the Great Ganga. It flows through the Himalayan valleys and emerges into the North Indian plain.
A major glitch we are facing is that the rate at which the river is being polluted is much more than the pace at which it is being cleaned. It is estimated that the four states (Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal) generate about 12,000 MLD (Million Litres Day) of sewage in the Ganga basin. The major causes of pollution are:
Domestic sewage is the primary cause of the Ganges’s contamination. A large proportion of population dumps the solid and liquid wastes in Ganga river such as domestic usage (bathing, laundry, and public defecation), sewage, unburnt dead bodies etc. Patna and Varanasi are the biggest contributors of water pollution in Ganga and the major element is sewage waste (75 %).
(Polluted stretches of Ganga. Source: CPCB)
Countless industries have been established on the bank of the Ganga River from Uttarakhand to West Bengal which includes chemical plants, paper mills, fertilizer plants, tanneries etc. In terms of number, tanneries are dominant whereas in terms of waste water, maximum is generated by Pulp and paper industries. These industries contribute 20 % to water pollution. As estimated by Central Pollution Control Board, about 501 MLD of industrial wastewater after treatment is being discharged into river Ganga from the 764 Grossly Polluted Industries (GPI).
Dead bodies are cremated on the river bank especially in Varanasi, Garhmukteshwar & Haridwar, thereafter people dump the asthia (ashes) of the dead in the river. During festivals, waste materials such as food, leaves, flowers, old calendars, etc are thrown in the Ganga for religious reasons.
Missions, Funds, Regulations but what about cleaning Ganga?
The Ganga Action Plan was launched in 1986 with the focus on interception and diversion of sewage generated in the towns situated along the river.
National River Ganga Basin Authority (NRGBA) was another initiative which was established by the Government of India, in 2009 under Section 3 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986. It was announced that “the Indian government has embarked on a $4 billion campaign known as ‘2010 Government cleanup campaign’ to ensure that by 2020 no untreated municipal sewage or industrial runoff enters the 1,560-mile river.”
(Source: National Mission for Clean Ganga)
National Mission for Clean Ganga which is a registered trust and it is under this trust the Namami Ganga projects operates. In 2014, a budget was announced by the central government for the Namami Ganga project and Ganga Manthan. Also, a national dialogue was organized at New Delhi marking the beginning of a national level stakeholder interaction on various issues to achieve the ambitious objective of ‘Ganga Rejuvenation’. The Union Finance Minister announced a project titled Namami Ganga with an allocation Rs 20,000 cr totally centrally funded which consists of more than 250 different projects.
Namami Ganga Project for the Ganga River has come in for criticism from various quarters. The Supreme Court has observed that the government’s action plan may not result in a clean Ganges “even after 200 years.” The apex court has ordered the government to provide a clean-up plan with stages and a schedule. It has been alleged that the government is also not utilizing the funds allotted for the same. The NMCH has been allotted Rs. 20,000 Cr for running 280 projects and it is said that only one-fifth of this fund has been utilized till March 2018. The financial account report obtained from the NCGM states that out of 20,000 Cr only 4254 Cr has been spent on the implementation.
Rivers in India are dying. Yamuna, Ganga, Narmada and others are being polluted at an alarming rate now. What is needed is a strong collaborative action reinforced with a strong political will. Flushing of money without proper planning and in a non-transparent manner if only going to defeat the purpose of this national mission to save our holy river, Ganga.
(The writer is a Digital Campaigner with Gati Foundation. He is pursuing law from UPES, Dehradun)