Rama Rauta

Ganga’s quest for cleanliness

By: Staff Reporter

New Delhi, April 2 (G’nY News Service): Ganga’s status has now changed from being a lifeline to that of a dumping line. The pathetic condition of the legendry River reflects the contradiction in the character of the people who inhabit its banks, worshipping it on one hand and polluting it on the other. The government over the years, has taken initiatives to restore the natural order of the River, yet both Ganga Action Plan I and II, failed. The Prime Minster, Narendra Modi has assured a concerted effort and set up a separate mission for tackling the problem.

G’nY correspondent spoke with Rama Rauta, the founder and convener of Save Ganga Movement, in this context, to understand the ideal way forward. Save Ganga Movement is an undertaking of like-minded organizations with a view to create mass awareness for protecting life-sustaining natural systems in Ganga and the Himalayas.

The Ganga Action Plan land II have taught us that cleaning river Ganga is a very complex issue. In your view has the current Ganga plan taken legitimate steps to counter the failures of GAP I and II?

I think the current Ganga plan, as submitted by the consortium of seven IITs, which is preparing National Ganga River Basin Management Plan (NGRBMP) has taken legitimate steps to counter the failures of GAP I and GAP II. The real problem is about its acceptance and implementation by the central and state governmental authorities.

Point and non-point sources of pollution in the Ganga are reaching grave levels. While we understand sewerage related water pollution and are working towards mitigating it, do you think the Mission will be successful in terms of industrial/non-point source of pollution?

We think we must take the following steps to clean Ganga:

(a) We must adopt the policy of zero discharge into the river, and promote reuseand recycle of wastewater after proper treatment (tertiary-level treatment).

(b)Industrial effluents, hospital wastes, treated or untreated, must never be allowed to enter into the rivers and must not also be allowed to mix with the sewage, which should be converted into valuable manure for organic farming; industries must treat their effluent and use recycled water.

(c) Organic farming should be promoted in a massive way for decreasing the non-point sources of pollution of rivers such as hazardous chemicals from agricultural run-off into the rivers, and also for maintaining soil fertility, checking the groundwater degradation, reducing water requirement of crops, producing health-friendly food, etc.

(d) Treatment of the sewage through “pond system and plant based management of sewage and waste treatment” and using the nutrient reach treated waste water for organic forming, which is the cheapest and durable and need least management and electricity, should be preferred wherever possible.

The eight decade old East Kolkata Wetlands constitute an ideal example of a system of natural bio-treatment of urban waste water through this pond system – recycling and utilizing the treated waste water for fish culture and agriculture. It provides about 13000 tonnes of fish per year from about 300wastewater fed ponds, 150 tonnes of fresh vegetables per day from the small scale horticulture plots irrigated with the treated wastewater, water for irrigating paddy cultivation and livelihood for about 50 thousand commonpeople and also serves as a natural sponge, absorbing excess rainfall.

(e) Scientists claim that Ganga has the unique quality of self-purification due  to the presence of high levels of bactericidal copper and chromium and perhaps of uranium and thorium in the Himalayan sediments. The different types of beneficent bacteria coliphages in the sediments of the River kill the harmful bacterial coliforms.

The bactericidal, health promoting, non-putrefying and self-purifying properties of the water of Ganga should be restored and conserved. Anadequate flow of natural fresh clean water must be allowed to flow on the Ganga bed and the Yamuna bed throughout the stretch of the rivers throughout the year not only to protect and preserve their ecology but also to meet the basic water needs of the cities, towns and villages situated on their banks. At present in dry season the three large barrages at Haridwar, Bijnor and Narora divert 100 per cent of the river’s water into its canals and the Ganga remains bereft of water.

It is highly deplorable that our national capital Delhi is the greatest polluter of the River Yamuna, the largest tributary of the Ganga. In dry season no water is allowed to flow in the Yamuna River downstream to Hathnikund barrage in Haryana and what reaches the holy cities of Mathura and Vrindavan is mainly the treated or untreated domestic and industrial waste water contributed by various drains joining the Yamuna at Delhi.

Do you think the intervention to achieve total sanitation target along the river would yield adequate results?

There is no scarcity of money, knowledge and skills with us to save our rivers including the Ganga. What we need is will power to take the necessary course of actions to rejuvenate and preserve the Ganga which is the lifeline of nearly 40 per cent of our country’s population.

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