Ganga: major headache to clean!

The Ganga captures the collective Indian imagination. The river is believed to have the capacity to wash away one’s sins and purify the living and the dead. Such is the power of the Ganga that politicians always make it a point to highlight their “dip” in the holy river. Prime ministers from Rajiv Gandhi to Narendra Modi put “cleaning” the Ganga on their to-do lists.

Yet, the holy Ganges becomes a carrier of untreated industrial waste, garbage, agricultural run-off and municipal waste. It is less of a river and more of a toxic waterway. It has a high presence of total coliform and fecal coliform, a group of closely related bacteria — an indicator of the level of contamination of a water source or body, By all accounts, the water in the Ganga is not fit for bathing, let alone consumption or farming– except in the upper reaches.

As the Ganga makes its nearly 2,000 km journey through north India to the Bay of Bengal, it carries much more than the famed silt responsible for the fertility of the Indo-Gangetic plains.

The worst stretches are between Kanpur and Varanasi and then again in West Bengal beyond Dhakineswar. In the stretch from Kanpur-Unnao to Rai Bareli to Allahabad and Varanasi the Ganga becomes a flowing body of filth.

The Central Pollution Control Board, entrusted with tackling water pollution, reported in July 2013 that Uttar Pradesh contributes 76% of the Ganga’s pollution load.

In fact, in the past 30 years, the Ganga has taken in more waste than it did before 1985. BD Tripathi, environment science professor at Banaras Hindu University and expert member of the National Ganga River Basin Authority, attributes rising pollution in the river to untreated domestic waste, industrial effluents and religious practices like cremation. Anjum Parvez, a professor at the Law College Dehradun, adds growing population, poverty, unregulated urbanisation and improper agricultural practices to the list.

Herculean task

Cleaning the Ganga is a Herculean task—the river traverses 66 districts and there are 118 towns and 1,657 gram panchayats on the river’s main stem. Municipal waste is the major source of the river’s pollution and although the quantity of industrial effluents is lower, experts say it’s more harmful.

“People see the floating trash and call Ganga  dirty. Floating trash is minuscule. Our focus is on the big problem: municipal sewage, there are 144 drains following into the river. This is the biggest source of the pollution and this where we will use the bulk of our resources. Then there is industrial effluents. We have to ensure that no waste and untreated water flows into the Ganga,” said a senior official with the National Mission for Clean Ganga.

At present, some 7,300 million litres of sewage is generated every day in towns, cities and villages along the river. Sewage treatment plants can handle only about 2,126 million litres a day. Plants with a cumulative capacity of 1,188 million litres a day are under construction or in approval stage.

The Ganga’s pollution problem may be worsened by reduced water flow from the large number of hydropower projects in the upper reaches in Uttarakhand, which lowers its selfcleaning ability and curbs dilution of waste. The government has told the Supreme Court that it intends to maintain a flow of 1,000 cubic metres a second in the river.

If the Ganges has to be saved, local level initiatives to stop untreated waste from entering the river, need to be encouraged.

[this article has been paraphrased from net resources by intern Abhijit Deb]

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Posted by on May 23, 2015. Filed under EARTH,Interns. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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