Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to Varanasi and showed a hope to clean the holy River Ganga during his election campaign. Cleaning of Ganga has also been mentioned in the manifesto of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) under the cultural heritage sections. They made certain changes in the administration to perform the task. The Ganga Action Plan which was part of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has now been shifted under Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti.
It is imperative to keep natural resources pure as these sustain life and maintain ecological balance. Increased inflow of industrial waste, untreated sewage and reduced natural flow of the river are the major factors leading to water pollution. As per experts it is essential to bring back the ecological flow of the Ganga which is joined by 115 small rivers. Out of these seven small rivers have been restored and work has to be done on the remaining 108 to revive the ecological flow.
History of Projects to clean Ganga
The Ganga Action Plan (GAP) – Way back in 1986, the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi launched Rs 462-crore project to clean the Ganga in Varanasi. Under this plan sewage treatment plants were set up, raw sewage was cut off and diverted, electric and wood crematoria was set up and low-cost sanitation facilities were provided. The Ganga Action Plan was not successful so refuted on 31 March 2000 but phase II of the programe got approval. Till Feb 2014 Rs 939 crore had been spent on the Ganga Action Plan including 524 different schemes.
The National Ganga River Basin Authority (NRBA) – Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was the head of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NRBA), a regulatory body formed in February 2009 with an objective to reduce pollution and to conserve the Ganga. But he along with two more members resigned from the post because of lack of accountability and commitment. NRBA had been granted fund of Rs 3,031 to operate 56 schemes in 44 towns. As per available data Rs 785 crore had already been spent till September 2013. NRBA was supported by the National Ganga River Basin Project.
Supreme Court of India – Closure and relocation of industrial plants along the Ganges is tackled by the Supreme Court of India. Stretch of the river between Gaumukh and Uttarkashi has been termed as ‘eco-sensitive zone’ in 2010.
Save Ganga Movement – Gandhian non-violent movement with saints and social science activist as its supporters. National Women’s Organisation (NWO) and many other such organizations also take interest in this cause.
Ganga Calling – Save Ganga – A campaign supported by Indian Council for Enviro-Legal Action (ICELA).
Facts on the River Ganges and its pollution
Total distance covered by the river is 400,000 square miles.
The River covers 29 cities having a population of more than 100,000, flows through 23 cities having population between 50,000 and 100,000 and near about 48 towns.
The Ganga is considered as the holiest river in India with massive spiritual, religious and ritual significance. Near about 40% of Indian population survive on Ganga by using its water.
The Ganges tolerate domestic waste such as defecation, untreated industrial waste, and pollution during religious events. Every day 1.7 billion litres of such waste run into the river. Near about 89 million litres of sewage is disposed off in the river daily.
The Ganges is one of the most polluted rivers in India in which level of pollutants is more than 3000 times than the permissible limit defined by the WHO as ‘safe’.
As per studies carried out by the Uttarakhand Environment Conservation and Pollution Control Board, the Ganges water near Haridwar has Coliform bacteria at 5,500 level which is 100 times more than the permissible limit. Directly pouring human feces, urine and sewage into river is the major reason of this rise. Coliform bacteria is found human colons but become highly hazardous when found in water or food.
Half-burned or unburned human dead bodies as well as animal carcasses are thrown into the river.
Harmful pesticides and fertilizers in agriculture run-offs pollute the water. The water of this holy river has become unfit for drinking, bathing and not even safe for agriculture purposes.
Mercury has also been found in the Ganga River water in the study conducted by the Environmental Biology Laboratory, Department of Zoology, Patna University. Though mercury contamination has not reached to an alarming level but its presence is still worrisome.
In spite of all the plans, actions, schemes and funds, the River Ganga is still polluted.
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