Binay Singh, TNN 4 November 2009, 07:28pm IST
VARANASI: Exactly 365 days to the Prime Minister's declaration of the holy Ganga as the National River of India on November 4, 2008, much water has flown. However, the holy river is becoming dirtier and more polluted every day.
Mixed response came from people involved in getting the status of the national river to Ganga when TOI tried to know their opinion and work done so far on the first anniversary of the event on Wednesday. While some were sceptical of the move of the Central government, others were optimistic about the outcome.
"It is good that the Ganga has been given the status of the national river, but is it enough to put an end to the miseries of our national river? questioned Swami Avimukteshwaranand Saraswati, the convener of the Ganga Seva Abhiyan (GSA) and disciple of Shankaracharya Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati.
It may be mentioned here that the Shankaracharya of Jyotish and Dwarka Sharda Peeth, Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati, met the Prime Minister in New Delhi along with a delegation on October 16, 2008. Following the meeting, the PM declared the Ganga as the National River on November 4, 2008 and decided to set up National Ganga River Basin Authority as an empowered planning, implementing and monitoring authority for the Ganga.
"There is a need of separate and stringent laws for saving the Ganga. But, the government has taken the issue of the Ganga like that of any other ordinary river and attached it with the environment ministry. Then, what was the need to declare it as a national river? wondered the seer, who had spearheaded a campaign to save the river by forming a body of Ganga Sansad across the country.
While Avimukteshwaranand was critical, Prof BD Tripathi, an environmentalist and coordinator of the Centre of Environmental Science and Technology of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU), had an optimistic approach. Tripathi, who was also in the delegation that called on the PM on October 16, is also a member of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA). "In the past one year, almost all official formalities were completed. The PM also called a meeting of the NGRBA members on October 5 this year to discuss matters related to the Ganga," said Tripathi, adding the state governments were also asked to constitute State Ganga River Conservation Authorities to serve the purpose.
According to Tripathi, taking lessons from the drawbacks of the first and second phases of the Ganga Action Plan (GAP), the NGRBA would take all appropriate measures. To fix accountability, the Central government would sign a memorandum of understanding (MoUs) with the state governments and local bodies. Besides, site specific sewage treatment plants would be constructed. "Since the PM is taking personal interest in Ganga, we are hopeful that encouraging results will be soon possible," said Tripathi.
But, on the other hand, an eminent river expert and head of the Ganga Research Laboratory, Institute of Technology (IT-BHU), Prof UK Chowdhary was not satisfied with the developments. "The government should frame a constitution of the Ganga (Ganga ka Samvidhan) to determine the baseline of the issue by gathering opinions of experts from research institutes of the country," he said, adding the only achievement in one year was that a meeting had been held. He had also objection over the inclusion of politicians (ministers) and bureaucrats in the NGRBA. "Only river experts and scientists can explain what is required to save the Ganga, which is gradually losing its Oxygen absorption and retention capacity," he said, adding the Ganga was the only river in the world which had 12ppm of oxygen. "The Ganga was once known as the reservoir of oxygen. But, today, it's oxygen has reduced to 4-8ppm," he said.
Nominated reps to work for Ganga
VARANASI: Like the members of the Parliament, the Ganga Seva Abhiyan (GSA) will nominate a representative from each parliamentary constituency to work for the cause of the Ganga. It means there will be 583 Ganga Sansads in the country.
"So far, around 400 representatives from parliamentary constituencies have been nominated and we will complete the process very soon," said Swami Avimukteshwaranand, the convener of GSA. "When the government is deviating from its path, we will also not sit idle. Our nominated representatives who are committed to the Ganga will organise a mass movement across the country to put pressure on the government," said the seer.
He said the national conclave of those representatives was likely to be held on the occasion of the Ganga Dussehra (May-June) in Kashi. They would hold elaborate discussion and formulate appropriate laws for the protection of the Ganga. The draft of laws would be forwarded to the Central Government for consideration and enactment, he said. "If the government has no time to formulate the laws, we will do this job," he said. "So far, the state-level conventions have been taking place at Prayag (UP) and Hardwar (Uttarakhand)," he said, adding by the end of the year, conventions would also be held at Patna (Bihar) and Kolkata (West Bengal).
Sewage flows unabated into river
VARANASI: Though, the Ganga has been declared the National River, millions of litres of untreated sewage is still going directly into the river everyday.
Union environment minister Jairam Ramesh, while responding to a Calling Attention Motion in the Lok Sabha in August, also admitted that the Ganga and Yamuna were not as clean as they were 20 years ago despite the investment of Rs 1,700 crore on them during the same period.
In 1986, according to the government's estimates, about 147 million litres per day (MLD) of sewage and industrial waste generated in Varanasi flowed into the Ganga while the installed capacity of the sewage treatment plants (STPs) constructed under GAP in the city is only 102 MLD. At the time of launching the Ganga Action Plan (GAP), the main objective was to improve the water quality of the river to acceptable standards by preventing the pollution load. The objective of GAP was, however, recast in 1987 as restoring the river water quality to the bathing class standards. It meant there should be dissolved oxygen (DO) not less than 5 mg/litre, bio-chemical oxygen demand (BOD) not more than 3 mg/litre, bacterial load/coliform count not more than 10,000 per ml, faecal coliform not more than 2,500 per 100 ml, and pH value 6.5 to 8.5.
But, according to the report of Sankat Mochan Foundation (SMF), an organisation working for the cause of the Ganga for over 25 years and monitoring the river quality, the BOD of Ganga water in Asi, at the beginning of the city, is around 4 mg/l and FCC/100 ml is around 60,000. The river flows downstream from this point and the quality of the water at the end of the town at the Varuna confluence is poor with BOD equal to 20 mg/l or more and FCC around 1.5 million/100 ml.
* June 14, 1986: Ganga Action Plan (GAP) was launched in Varanasi by the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi
* 1993-1996: GAP Phase-II was launched in phases
* November 4, 2008: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared Ganga as National River
* February 20, 2009: The Central government set up the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA)
The objective of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA)
To ensure effective abatement of pollution and conservation of the river Ganga by adopting a holistic approach with the river basin as the unit of planning
Functions of NGRBA
The functions of the NGRBA include all measures necessary for planning and execution of programmes for abatement of pollution in the Ganga including augmentation of sewerage infrastructure, collection, analysis and dissemination of information relating to environmental pollution in Ganga, investigations and research regarding problems of environmental pollution and conservation of Ganga, and, promotion of water conservation practices including recycling and reuse, rain water harvesting, and decentralised sewage treatment systems
Prof UK Choudhary, the co-ordinator of the Ganga Research Centre, department of Civil Engineering, Institute of Technology, BHU, wrote a letter to the PM in November 2008 after the declaration of Ganga as National River
He points out the problems the Ganga is facing and the points for the management of the problems:
* Excess withdrawal of water in unscientific way through dams, barrages and canals that causes the lack of quantity of the drinking water in down stream plain
* Uncontrolled inflow of pollutants and fall in drinking water quality, falling diversity in aquatic lives
* No application of technology for fixing the location of out fall site, quantification of water to be withdrawn and the suitable methodology to withdraw the water based on minimum energy loss concept
* Reducing flood plain area of the Ganga due to various human occupancy
* Rising sedimentation and erosion in flood plain
* With the rise in numbers of dams and extending length of canals growing problems of flood and the area of waterlogging
* Depleting groundwater table in the basin
* No use of renewable natural energies of the river
* No control over instantaneous flow from the basin
* Lack of understanding in the interaction phenomena between surface and ground water flows
* Lack of research institutions for management studies of river problems.
* No institution for providing training for river management
Ganga research institute recommended
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Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University
Varanasi 221005, UP