Namami Ganga–True Devotion This Time?


Namami Ganga–True Devotion This Time?

Articles / Environment   /   Jul 23, 2014
karuna Gupta
karuna Gupta
She is a writer. She has done post-graduation in Political Science from Delhi University. She likes writing news stories, blogs and articles. She also likes to analyze political and international events and write stories on them. She wishes to bring a change to the lives of women by attracting the attention of leaders as well as society at large through her articles. Truth is what she stands for.

Rivers are of immense significance to any nation. India is a country which has many beautiful rivers flowing through its length and breadth. Though the rivers have been of great use to us over the ages but we have done little to repay our debt of gratitude to them. On the contrary we have polluted our rivers to the extent that now we are paying a heavy price for our reckless actions.

Ganga- the most important river in India is in an awful state today. A huge amount of money has been spent on cleaning the Ganga but the results have been far from satisfactory. More than Rs 5,000 crore has been spent on cleaning the Ganga in the past 28 years with no substantial result.

The Ganga basin constitutes 26 per cent of India’s land area .The over 2,500-km-long Ganga flows through an area, the Indo Gangetic plains, with a population of more than 40 crore, almost a third of the country’s total. There are 29 cities with a population of above one lakh in the basin, 23 smaller cities with a population between 50,000 and one lakh, and 48 towns with fewer than 50,000 inhabitants each on this stretch.

Major cities in the Ganga river basin like Kanpur, Lucknow, Varanasi, Allahabad, Patna and Calcutta — generate and discharge huge quantities of wastewater into the river. According to the Pioneer, nearly 15 lakh households, 600 schools and 6,000 anganwadis spread across 1,500 gram panchayats in 220 blocks of 46 districts situated along the banks of the holy river in four States have no toilet facilities and community sanitary complexes. Defecation is thus a major cause of pollution in the river, which is also a key source of drinking water. Around 70-75 per cent of the pollution in the Ganga is caused by the discharge of untreated municipal sewage from towns and cities along it. According to an India Today report, over three billion litres of sewage from over a hundred towns and cities flows into the river daily. Varanasi, by itself, generates 400 MLD of sewage but the city has only three sewage treatment plants which can handle just 102 MLD. So 300 MLD of sewage flows into the river untreated just in Varanasi.

A 2012 study of the Banaras Hindu University’s Centre for Environmental Science and Technology counted 33,000 cremations over a period of 12 months and found that more than 700 tonnes of ash and partially burnt skeletal material found its way into the Ganga. Data from the Central Pollution Control Board, tells us that a large number of industries (over 250 units) situated in the region from Uttar Pradesh to West Bengal, discharge “toxic substances” into effluent flows “with BOD (biochemical oxygen demand) concentrations of more than 100 mg per litre. The current “total pollution load” of the Ganga basin is 50,500 million litres per day.

In the budget speech the Government announced Rs. 2037 crore for restoring the cleanliness and purity of river Ganga. In the Prime Minister’s words, “(The) need of the hour is to restore the glory of the Ganga. Today Maa Ganga is calling us, her children, to make the river clean once again.”

An action plan has been made by the Modi Government to make sure that at least half the households along the river have toilet facilities by the end of December 2014. “A fresh baseline survey is currently on in the river-basin States of Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh to identify more such households by July 15, the Union Water and Sanitation Ministry has in the meantime asked all the four States to make the area within 15 metres of the high flood level of the 1,500-mile-long sacred river and its tributaries “open-defecation free.” Part A of the draft action plan focuses on the number of gram panchayats, households and schools. Part B details the future action that the States need to take in a time-bound manner to improve the sanitation situation. A senior official from the Ministry said “In the absence of toilets and proper sanitation facilities, the locals of these gram panchayats are defecating as-well-as bathing and washing clothes along the river, causing untold pollution. This has to be checked urgently if we want to make Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pet project ‘Namami Ganga’ a reality.””(The Pioneer, July13, Ganga Maili! 15 L Toilet-less Homes on its Banks)

From August 1 the Government is planning to launch an awareness campaign to educate the masses about the need, importance and necessity of building toilets and using them every day instead of defecating in the open and dirtying the river. This campaign will be held at village level with the assistance and cooperation of the Gram Panchayats, various NGOs and local people of the villages. Each house in the villages will be visited and funds for this purpose, it has been reported, will be provided by the states under the “Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan.”By September this year the Government plans to enable “sewage liquid waste management” in at least half the village panchayats in each district and by December the objective is to cover all the villages.

According to Jairam Ramesh, Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha and former Union Minister of Environment and forests “The initiative must consolidate what has been accomplished so far, since much work has already been done. The IIT consortium, for example, has already submitted 37 reports, and it has given the country the first basin-wide approach to river management, a marked departure from the earlier city-centred approach. Seven hundred and sixty four grossly polluting industries have already been identified and 704 of them have actually been inspected and issued suitable directions. There is always political backlash when such directions are issued, but if we are serious about cleaning the Ganga, then Section 5 of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 must be invoked and enforced ruthlessly. For this to be a reality, the five state pollution control boards have to work in tandem with the CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board).
The eco-sensitive zone from Gaumukh to Uttarkashi was finally notified in December 2012 in the teeth of opposition from all political parties in Uttarakhand.”(The Indian Express, July 17 2014, To Keep the River Alive).

A lot many initiatives have been taken to clean the river in the past and a lot of money spent on it. Though there are no visible results as such but whatever has been done should not go waste either in terms of the money spent or in terms of the time and energy spent. Petty politics must not come in the way if we wish to restore the lost glory of the river Ganga.

It was also announced in the budget that an additional Rs. 4200 crore is to be spent on the Ganga in the coming six years in the development of a navigation corridor. Added to this, another 100 crore is to be invested on building and beautifying the ghats and the waterfront.

The plan is also to give tourism a great impetus. According to reports the Tourism ministry “is exploring the possibility of introducing shikaras on Ganga on the pattern of Kashmir.” River cruising, floating restaurants and light and sound show are also a part of the plans to attract more tourists.
But would this ultimately not lead to taxing a river already over taxed by human actions and disturb its natural surroundings and its eco system further?

The Government must concentrate on making the Ganga pollution free primarily. Experts are of the opinion that we must follow the “Thames model” to rejuvenate the Ganga. “In the mid-19 century, the Thames River or the ‘Great Stink’, as it was then called, was so bad that even sittings in the House of Commons had to be put off. But in subsequent years, as part of an ‘ongoing restoration plan’, a systematic application of scientific methods of wastewater treatment helped to turn around the “once dead Thames”. The river has now been “fully rejuvenated.””(Ganga Cleanup Project can Emulate Thames Model Says Expert, The Hindu, July 14, 2014)

Apart from the steps to be taken by the Government, all of us too must understand our responsibility in keeping our rivers clean. We can contribute by taking care that we do not dirty our rivers in any way. At least the educated class can begin taking conscious steps in this regard and also try to create awareness in whatever way possible. It is only when the Government and the masses are one in mind and work hand in hand that this great endeavor can be a success. Moreover, let us make sure that this movement also spreads to embrace all other rivers of India which need to be saved.

Let us all, the Government included, be true in our devotion this time.

Let us not fail Mother Ganga this time.

The views expressed here are those of the authors and doesn’t reflect the official policy of Janpratinidhi. The views expressed here are those of the authors and doesn’t reflect the official policy of Janpratinidhi.
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