Clean Ganga

(Practice Questions – 

Q. 1. The cleaning of river Ganga has received substantial attention from the government. Comment. – 150 words

Q.2. Despite receiving substantial attention from the government, the efforts for cleaning the river Ganga has not yielded satisfactory results. What are the challenges currently being faced? Suggest remedial measures. – 200 words.

Q.3. Account for the extent of pollution in the river Ganga. What are the major contributors to such pollution of the river? Why is the pollution of river Ganga a major concern for downstream states? – 150 words.)

Recent news of relevance:

  • Recent death of environmentalist GD Agarwal after a 111-day hunger strike to push his demand for a cleaner Ganga.
  • A map recently released by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has indicated that most of the Ganga river water in the Uttar Pradesh-West Bengal stretch is unfit for drinking and bathing.
  • A recently published report “Performance Audit of Rejuvenation of River Ganga” by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has shown disappointment with the progress made to clean the river Ganga.

Extent/Reasons of pollution in river Ganga:

Rapidly increasing population, rising standards of living and exponential growth of industrialization and urbanization have exposed water resources to various forms of degradation.

Most of the Ganga’s pollution is due to five States on the river’s main stem — Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal. Approximately 12,000 million litres a day (MLD) of sewage is generated in the Ganga basin, for which there is currently a treatment capacity of just 4,000 MLD. Industrial pollution from tanneries in Kanpur, distilleries, paper and sugar mills in the Kosi, Ramganga and Kali river catchments is a major contributor.

A report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India in December 2017 reveals that coliform levels in all river-abutting cities in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal were up to 334 times higher than the level deemed acceptable by the Central Pollution Control Board.

The Census 2011 revealed, there are at least 18 million septic tanks and 10 million pit latrines around the main Ganga stream, which dispose of untreated fecal sludge into the river. As much as 12 billion litre of sewage flows into Ganga and its tributaries every day; 53 per cent of it untreated.

Construction of around 1.5 million toilets in rural areas along the Ganga, besides another 1.45 million toilets in urban areas under the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, are likely to produce 180 mld of faecal sludge which too will find its way into the Ganga. Then there is the run-off from the 6 million tonne of fertilisers and 9,000 tonne of pesticides used in agriculture within the basin.

Cremation in Kashi and immersing ashes in the Ganga have been a matter of faith for generations. Some 33,000 bodies are cremated annually on its banks in Varanasi alone. Thousands of animal carcasses and hundreds of human corpses are released into the river every day.

Steps taken by the government:

The Government launched an integrated Ganga conservation mission called ‘Namami Gange’ to arrest the pollution of Ganga River and revive the river. The Union Cabinet approved the action plan proposed by Centre to spend Rs 20,000 Crores till 2019-2020 on cleaning the river, increasing the budget by four-fold and with 100% central share – a central sector scheme.

The Namami Gange programme which integrates the efforts to clean and protect the Ganga River in a comprehensive manner. The program would be implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), and its state counterpart organizations i.e., State Program Management Groups (SPMGs). “Namami Gange” will focus on pollution abatement interventions namely Interception, diversion & treatment of wastewater flowing through the open drains through bio-remediation/appropriate in-situ treatment/use of innovative technologies/sewage treatment plants (STPs)/effluent treatment plant (ETPs) rehabilitation and augmentation of existing STPs and immediate short-term measures for arresting pollution at exit points on river front to prevent inflow of sewage etc.

The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) was established for project planning, management and implementation of activities related to river Ganga. The aims and objectives of NMCG is:

  • To ensure effective abatement of pollution and rejuvenation of the river Ganga; and
  • To maintain minimum ecological flows in the river Ganga with the aim of ensuring water quality and environmentally sustainable development.

The NMCG’s also thrusts on roping in the private sector to not only set up sewage treatment plants but also maintain them. In return, the government offers to contribute 40% of the capital costs upfront and disburse the rest — with a profit margin — over 15 years subject to performance indicators being met.

The mission also has projects to clean the ghats, rid the river of biological contaminants and improve rural sanitation and afforestation.

Current Challenges:

  • The sewage treatment infrastructure cannot keep pace with the scale of pollution.
  • Ensuring that pollution was checked at source before being emptied into the river.
  • Checking flagrant violation of laws, ubiquitous corruption, and absence of co-ordination between the Centre and States.
  • Developing a proper mechanism to make efficient use of sewerage treatment plants.

Way ahead:

A clean Ganga will not only provide multiple user benefits by way of recreation and health, rise in land value, but also enable increased yields for farmers, fishermen and labourers.

There is a need to forge public-private partnerships for installing and maintaining large Sewerage Treatment Plants, besides launching schemes for cultural and tourist-interest activities, including development, maintenance and management of ghats, without impairing the sanctity and dignity of the river.

CAG Recommendations: The CAG audit provides a set of 12 recommendations for realistic planning, better functioning of funds, strict monitoring and evaluation and management of goals to make river Ganga clean. CAG says that major focus should be on the timely release of funds particularly Clean Ganga Fund. NMCG should also finalise Ganga River Basin Management Plan and implement it in a time bound manner. The appraisal process should be kept smooth and proceed in time bound manner. NMCG should also identify and declare River Conservation Zones and address the capacity gaps of sewerages, in order to conserve the River Ganga from encroachment and construction activities, recommends the CAG report.

Other suggestions: (Source: World Bank)

a. The paucity of credible and reliable water quality data on the Ganga must be rectified.

b. The global experience shows that, as an implementation task, river-cleaning should be de-linked from line ministries charged with policymaking and regulation and given, instead, to smaller, professionally managed river basin organizations. Cities in the Ganga basin need to be strengthened as ultimately they will be the custodians of the assets being created

c. People must be part of development and every successful clean-up programme has tapped this crucial resource.

Steps taken to increase peoples participation:

To conserve the ecological integrity of the Ganga River, and, reduce the direct dependency of the local communities on the river, the National Mission for Clean Ganga-Wildlife Institute of India (NMCG-WII) project ‘Biodiversity Conservation and Ganga Rejuvenation’ is involving members of the local community in the five Ganga states (Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal) as guardians of the river who will henceforth be known as Ganga Praharis.

The Ganga Vichar Manch – launched on January 30, 2016 is a website which intends to start a national dialogue on strategies required for restoring the Ganga and invites suggestions from individuals, academicians, NGOs, voluntary organisations and corporations.

Sources: The Hindu Business Line and Down to Earth

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