Rapidly increasing population, rising standards of living and exponential growth of industrialisation and urbanisation have exposed water resources, in general, and rivers, in particular, to various forms of degradation. The mighty Ganga is no exception. The deterioration in the water quality impacts the people immediately. Ganga, in some stretches, particularly during lean seasons has become unfit even for bathing. The threat of global climate change, the effect of glacial melt on Ganga flow and the impacts of infrastructural projects in the upper reaches of the river, raise issues that need a comprehensive response.
Demography has an important bearing on the state of the river as it is significantly affected by the population living within the basin. Average population density in the Ganga basin is 520 persons per square km as against 312 for the entire country (2001 census). Major cities of Delhi, Kolkata, Kanpur, Lucknow, Patna, Agra, Meerut, Varanasi and Allahabad are situated in the basin. The cities in the basin have large and growing populations and a rapidly expanding industrial base. There is increase by 30% in urban population from last census. This trend is likely to continue. The pollution load is also expected to increase rapidly because of continuous rise in urban population.
In the Ganga basin approximately 12,000 million litres per day (mld) sewage is generated, for which presently there is a treatment capacity of only around 4,000 mld. Approximately 3000 mld of sewage is discharged into the main stem of the river Ganga from the Class I & II towns located along the banks, against which treatment capacity of about 1000 mld has been created till date. The contribution of industrial pollution, volume‐wise, is about 20 per cent but due to its toxic and non‐ biodegradable nature, this has much greater significance. The industrial pockets in the catchments of Ramganga and Kali rivers and in Kanpur city are significant sources of industrial pollution. The major contributors are tanneries in Kanpur, distilleries, paper mills and sugar mills in the Kosi, Ramganga and Kali river catchments.
Municipal waste water treatment and reuse is in acute need in countries like India due to rapid urbanization leading to rapid increase in water demand. Dwindling fresh water availability and more waste water generation in urban areas No surface water resources are spared with contamination due to some or other type of waste water mainly domestic wastewater.
Normally in India water travel to long distance before it reaches to its usage and similarly for waste water / sewage, it travel through main drain / sub drain to finally reach the treatment facility downstream. This scenario does not ensure cleaner water body in urban local bodies including dirty drain and community do not get benefitted. There is very less motivation to local urban bodies to have these decentralized facility with state of the art technology due to various issues. Hence they always look at state authority to install these facilities for treatment Urban local bodies has limited resources and financial strength to install these facility. Hence they pass on their responsibility to states/ centre / federal government and Hence violation of globally accepted concept of polluter pays principle.
3.5 Billion dollar required only to treat secondary treatment of waste water even without nutrient removal or any tertiary treatment to meet BOD 30 and TSS 50 ppm. It will cover only 18‐20% of population in India. Opex requirement is close to 1.3 Billion dollar required to operate these system. Only in Ganga basin the CAPEX requirement is 1.34 Billion dollar and Opex will be 0.5 Billion dollar.
Ganga Action Plan was started in 1986 by Mr. Rajiv Gandhi but in last approximate 38 years not much has been achieved and in fact river water quality has further worsen over period of time due to excessive exploitation of water. As per Parliament standing committe – 40,000 crore has been spent on Ganga Action Plan but no use for the Maa Ganga as its original form still could not be achieved. So called prestigious flagship programme in India “Namami Gange” allocated funds of 3 Billion dollar over period of 5 years, whereas only on Ganga basin itself the fund requirement is close to 1.34 Billion dollar for CAPEX and 0.5 billion dollar for OPEX, which will cover only 15% of population. This cost is only for Sewage treatment without taking any cost consideration for Common effluent treatment plant, collection, conveyance, pumping transportation cost in this. In India 85% population is still not touched wherein urgent need is required to have these facilities to restore / conserve water bodies / river.
We have 225 town on Ganga basin and around 500 Plus town in India. Paradigm shift is required for Ganga river to restore to its natural form as its declared as our National River. Original form to be achieved by ensuring
- Atleast 70% natural flow to be restored to meet ecological flow requirement
- There should be minimal usage of pesticide and insecticide on crop to stop excessive runoff of these carcinogenic and deadly chemicals to any water body / river.
- There should be district level / city level monitoring committee with atleast one environmental engineer / chemical engineer in committee who understand the subject.
- Industrial effluent flow must be stopped completely by ensuring effective working of common effluent treatment plant and also addition of new Common effluent treatment plant with latest technology.
- Existing sewage treatment plant / common effluent treatment plant must be upgraded in time bound manner with strict monitoring of centre / state / district / city level committee.
- There should be public display like AQI for water quality monitoring outside the relevant sewage Treatment Plant / common effluent treatment plant
- Since online input and output quality monitoring is mandatory now, the reading of individual sewage treatment plant / common effluent treatment plant should be displayed on pollution control website
- There should be more private participation to make schools / college aware on the working of these projects so that government should be able to appoint them as volunteer as water conservation activist
- Private expert committee should be formed along with government bodies so as to monitor the progress of these project implementation and also during operation of these projects.
- Disconnect Sewer and River completely
- Local body should be incentivise for effective implementation of these important projects for nation.
- Incase of not meeting the prescribed norms the respective Industrial unit should be blacklisted and also there should be green grade system so as to reduce the rating for availing any bank loan. Similarly for any project executed for government project then respective contracting company should be blacklisted.
- Water Credit system must start to encourage the Industrial unit / ULB / Municipality those are doing good work for water conservation / efficient treatment / recycling / reuse.
Restoration also include to use the excess water for the developmental work / recharge activity including making dam and diverting the flows to canal so that naturally water percolate down to enhance the water table through which we can use the water round the year. Apart from it the canal water also can be used for agricultural activity. This will not only help us in saving huge water outflow but also helps us in controlling repeated floods in Indian various places.
We Indian are blessed with Biggest River in the world. Area 1 Million Sq Km, 2500 KM long. Three parts upper ganga basin, middle ganga basin and lower ganga basin. Upper ganga 294 KM upto Rishikesh from Hilly Terrain. Middle Ganga ‐1071 Km – Rishikesh to Varanasi. Lower Ganga – 1145 Km – Varanasi to Gangasagar. It Covers 40% (500 Million) people in this country. It Cover 26% of India’s geographical region – touching 11 States, nearly 1 Mn SqKm Ganga Path Gomukh / Gangotri – Uttarkashi – Maneri Bhali Dam – Original – Aviral Dhara Gomukh –Rudraprayag – dev prayag (mixed here Alaknanda + Bhagirathi + Mandakani Nadi ke saath Sangam)‐ Haridwar – Garh Mukteshwar – Kannauj (Ramganga Nadi + Kali Nadi mixed here) ‐ Kanpur + Fatehpur (Pandu Nadi) – Allahabad ( Yamuna ) – Mirzapur – Varanasi‐ Patna (Manain mein Son and Saryu) – Bhagalpur
To counter any further deterioration of our holy rivers, further intervention needs to be stopped for achieving our goals to have it in pristine conditions i.e Aviral dhara and Nirmal Dhara.
(Writer is an Environmental activist)