Cleaning up Ganga – The Challenges

Cleaning up Ganga

Cleaning up Ganga campaign

One of the major stated aims of Narendra Modi, in both his pre-poll campaign as well as after becoming the Prime Minister of India, has been to clean river Ganga. Regarded as the holiest river in India, it also happens to be the most polluted in the country and this makes the PM’s mission seem like a gargantuan task.

The primary and perhaps the biggest problem that the environmental bodies, who are entrusted to clean the river, will face is the humongous inflow of industrial effluents and sewage into the river. The river covers a distance of 2500 km and there are 50 cities located along the bank of this river that put in 2,723.2 million litres of wastewater into it on a daily basis.

Kali, Ramganga too heavily polluted

This data has been revealed in the latest assessment report to have come out of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). As of now the systems presently in India can only take care of 44% of the waste water or 1208.8 MLD. This implies there has been a gap of 1515 MLD and in order for the situation to be improved there is a requirement to bring down that gap. Incidentally the report, which contains all this data, is yet to be brought into the public domain by the Environment Ministry.

As many as 138 drains are responsible for polluting Ganga and two of its tributaries – Kali and Ramganga. These rivers are heavily polluted. Ramganga that covers a length of 596 km is full of industrial waste from the Kashipur paper mills as well as sewage emanating from Moradabad. Kali covers a distance of 500 km and has industrial sewage from the slaughterhouses of Meerut and the paper units and distilleries of the following cities:


  • Muzaffarnagar
  • Bulandshahr
  • Modi Nagar
  • Gulaothi
  • Hapur
  • Kannauj


Scientists are of the opinion that the Ganga needs to be completely cleaned up and after that maintenance will be a major issue. They feel that nothing less than a wholehearted effort would be considered sufficient over here. For example, a place like Varanasi is going to take up a lot of effort as cleaning it properly would mean that the river shall have to be cleaned upstream till its point of origin at Gaumukh.

Existing capacity for waste treatment

Among the 50 cities located along Ganga 36 are regarded as Class I towns. Together these generate waste water amounting to 2601.3 MLD but are capable of treating only 1,192.4 MLD OR 46% of the same. 122 MLD comes from 14 towns that are regarded as Class II. They are capable of treating 16.4 MLD or 13% of the same. Kanpur contributes the highest amount of waste water with 339.3 MLD and the second place belongs to Allahabad with 208 MLD. Varanasi, which lies in the 3rd position, contributes 187.1 MLD.

Kanpur can treat only 171.1 MLD and for Varanasi the capacity is 141 MLD. Allahabad is capable of treating only 89 MLD. Patna contributes 249.2 MLD but can treat no more than 109 MLD. At 618.4 MLD, Kolkata produces the maximum sewage in West Bengal but can treat no more than 172 MLD, which is equivalent to only 27% of the same.

West Bengal also has the distinction of possessing the worst treatment plants among the 51 treatment plants located in the vicinity of Ganges that had been checked by the CPCB. There are 34 plants in the State – 13 among them do not work – and these generate 457 MLD of waste water but can treat a maximum of 214 MLD of the amount. It also has the distinction of having 54 of the 138 drains that have been identified by the CPCB to be playing a major role in polluting the Ganga. Together these drains contribute 1,779 MLD.

So, in a nutshell, the level of pollution affecting the river is the biggest problem that faces Modi right now in his onerous task of cleaning Ganga. It only remains to be seen how he pulls this off. One thing that can be said for sure is that a lot of his party’s success in the next Assembly elections in these areas will depend on the level of success achieved in this domain.