Clean up of Ganga River

by jayalatha

Today, over 29 cities, 70 towns, and thousands of villages extend along the Ganga banks in India. Nearly all of their sewage - over 1.3 billion liters per day - goes directly into the river, along with thousands of animal carcasses, mainly cattle. Another 260 million liters of industrial waste are added to this by hundreds of factories along the rivers banks.

Municipal sewage constitutes 80 per cent by volume of the total waste dumped into the Ganga, and industries contribute about 15 percent. The majority of the Ganga pollution is organic waste, sewage, trash, food, and human and animal remains.

Recent water samples collected in Varanasi revealed fecal-coliform counts of about 50,000 bacteria per 100 milliliters of water, 10,000% higher than the government standard for safe river bathing.

The result of this pollution is an array of water-borne diseases including cholera, hepatitis, typhoid and amoebic dysentery. An estimated 80% of all health problems and one-third of deaths in India are attributable to water-borne diseases.

In Varanasi, some 40,000 cremations are performed each year, most on wood pyres that do not completely consume the body. Along with the remains of these traditional funerals, there are thousands more who cannot afford cremation and whose bodies are simply thrown into the Ganga. In addition, the carcasses of thousands of dead cattle, which are sacred to Hindus, go into the river each year. An inadequate cremation procedures contributes to a large number of partially burnt or unburnt corpses floating down the Ganga.

The industrial pollutants also a major source of contamination in the Ganga. A total of 146 industries are reported to be located along the river Ganga between Rishikesh and Prayagraj. 144 of these are in Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) and 2 in Uttrakhand. The major polluting industries on the Ganga are the leather industries, especially near Kanpur, which use large amounts of Chromium and other toxic chemical waste, and much of it finds its way into the meager flow of the Ganga. From the plains to the sea, pharmaceutical companies, electronics plants, textile and paper industries, tanneries, fertilizer manufacturers and oil refineries discharge effluent into the river. This hazardous waste includes hydrochloric acid, mercury and other heavy metals, bleaches and dyes, pesticides, and polychlorinated biphenyls highly toxic compounds that accumulate in animal and human tissue.

After two Ganga Action Plans failed to deliver the goods, seven major IITs of the country have joined hands to find ways to clean up the national river. After perusing a report submitted by the seven IITs, namely IIT Kanpur, Mumbai, Guwahati, Delhi, Kharagpur, Chennai and Roorkee, the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests has asked them June 10, 2010 to prepare a work plan for National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) in the next 18 months.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on June 10, 2010 approved a proposal for carrying out the second phase of Ganga Action Plan worth Rs.496.90 crore with Japanese assistance at Varanasi.

The Ganga Action Plan (GAP) was initiated by the late Prime Minster Indira Gandhi, who called for a comprehensive survey of the situation in 1979. In 1985, the government of India launched the Ganga Action Plan, which was devised to clean up the river in selected areas by installing sewage treatment plants and threatening fines and litigation against industries that pollute.

The 2006 official audit of the Ganga Action Plan has revealed that it has met only 39 per cent of its sewage treatment target. Moreover, the plan is behind schedule by over 13 years. According to the legal counsel, Central Pollution Control Board, Mr Vijay Panjawani, even after spending Rs 24,000 crore, the Ganga remains as dirty as ever.

A total of Rs.740.11 crore has been released to different States so far for implementation of schemes for the river Ganga under Ganga Action Plan (GAP). The GAP Phase – I, the first attempt of the Government of India to undertake pollution abatement works in the river Ganga, was launched in the year 1985 with the objective of treating 882 million litres per day (mld) of sewage and improving its water quality to bathing class standards.

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