The Ganges is the largest river and lifeline of India with an extraordinary religious importance for Hindus. Ganga water is subjected to major religious activities at Haridwar, Uttarakhand (India). Millions of devotees assemble during the auspicious occasions round the year and take a dip in Ganga River of India at Pantdweep and Hari Ki Pauri. Along its banks are some of the world's oldest inhabited places like Varanasi and Patna. It provides water to about 40% of India's population in 11 states. A number of drives have been undertaken, in which the river was reported to have been cleaned, municipal corporation urged people to refrain from polluting. Recently, Prime minister Narendra Modi affirmed to work on pollution of the river. The river directly and indirectly affects the largest population of any river in the world with over more than 420 million people who rely on it for food, water, bathing and agriculture. And that is not to mention the tens of Millions of pilgrims who venture to India's most holy of rivers each year to bathe and worship.
So with such a massive influence on the local and national population, why is it that the river is so completely and utterly disgusting?
Well this is a question that is asked everyday and to help answer it we first need to take a look at a few facts.
CPCB has inventorized and monitored 138 drains in Ganga river Catchment. 76 % of the pollution load was contributed by Uttar Pradesh. Maximum flow was also measured in Uttar Pradesh. In Uttar Pradesh, Chhoyia , Permiya, Sisamau nala are the major polluters which contributes maximum pollution load. In West Bengal maximum numbers (54) of point sources were identified. This indicates that if the pollution load in the major drains of Uttar Pradesh , Bihar and West Bengal is addressed, water quality would show substantial improvement.
Haridwar is also known for two industrial estates namely Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited (BHEL) and SIDCUL, which have more than 500 companies. Sewage and municipal waste of Rishikesh and Haridwar as well as effluents of industrial units of BHEL and SIDCUL. About 15 large and small sewage drains discharge about 42 mid municipal sewage into the river. Community bathing discharges milk pots bunches of flowers and leaves etc. into the river.
Approximately 1 billion litres of raw, untreated sewage are dumped in the river on a daily basis. The amount has more than doubled in the last 20 years and experts predict another 100% increase in the following 20 years.
So What’s the Solution?
Ms. Uma Bharti, Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation set the ball rolling in cleaning the Ganga. She announced that a programme, Ganga Manthan, would be held in the first week of July, seeking the views and suggestions of experts, environmentalists, scientists, general people and saints and sadhus from across the country on how to clean the river.
More than Rs40,000 crore have been spent in the past three decades in cleaning the river but nothing has happened. The depth of the river has reduced and it continues to remain polluted throughout its 2,500-km journey from the Gangotri to the Bay of Bengal.
Experts believe a focused effort involving all stakeholders like state governments and general people, the river can be turned around within a few years. Almost everyone feels that the river needs to have proper ecological flow that means allowing a certain amount of fresh water to flow thA solution however, seems far away with gross negligence, ignorance and stupidity pouring from every sect of Indian society from Government, the people and of course big business which still continues to pollute Ganga at every level.
But, all hope is not lost and there does seem to be some hope on the horizon for the serious case of the Ganges river pollution. The world bank has agreed to loan India almost $1 Billion to clean up the Ganges. The Rajiv Gandhi government took the first official step in 1985 to conserve the river by launching the Ganga Action Plan (GAP). The second phase was later merged with the centrally sponsored National River Conservation Plan.
Since then, Rs39,225.95 crore has been incurred on cleaning of the river under various schemes or projects, as per a 2012 parliamentary committee report. But pollution levels continue to rise.
The 2020 goal of this new project is once again to halt the discharge of untreated wastewater into the river. It will not only build treatment plants but will focus more broadly on regional environmental health and a public education campaign.
The clean-up will likely take decades and cost many billions of dollars—much more than the $1 billion initially loaned to the Indian government. At least it is a start for one of the world’s most sacred rivers.
I think following steps should adopted for cleaning Ganga : 1. Intercepting untreated municipal sewage and industrial wastewater flowing into river and diverting to sewage treatment plant. 2. Setting up Sewate Treatment Plants (STP) in the cities lying along the river for treatment of sewage and wastewater with suitable technologies for the standards for river dischare and letting treated effluent into river. 3. Construction of bio gas/electrical crematoriums in the river bank. 4. Construction of bathing ghats/toilets to eliminate open defecation in river bank. 5. Improvements to river banks to ensure its stability against erosion Afforestation, creating avenues along river bank. 6. Solid waste management systems to prevent dumping of solid wastes in the river.
We can send a shuttle into space, we can build the Delhi Metro. We can detonate nuclear weapons. So why can't we clean up our rivers?