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Centre may soon ban all construction on Ganga

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New Delhi: All new construction activities may soon be banned on the banks of Ganga and all its tributaries to protect the ecology of the holy river and maintain its minimum environmental flow.

An in-principle decision towards this was taken at an Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) meeting that was held last month. The decision was taken after reviewing the report submitted by an Expert Body that gave clearance to hydroelectric power (HEP) projects that have been proposed to be built on Alaknanda and Bhagirathi river basins in Uttarakhand.

According to reports, a final decision will be taken after IMG-constituted five-member committee chaired by Water Resources Secretary Shashi Shekhar submits its comprehensive report on the issue. The committee is likely to examine all the aspects of the issue, ranging from environmental flow to longitudinal connectivity in the two rivers.

Shekhar has severely criticized the Experts Group report for giving clearances to five out of six HEP projects. The six proposed HEP projects are: NTPC’s Lata Tapavan, NHPC’s Kotlibhel IA, GMR’s Alaknanda, Super Hydro’s Khirao Ganga and Bhyunder Ganga, and THDC’s Jelam.

He has further conveyed to the IMG that the requirements of environmental flow and longitudinal connectivity proposed by the Experts Group are very inadequate and may leave the rivers without any water during non-monsoon seasons.

The IMG is comprised of Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar and Power Minister Piyush Goyal.

After the devastating floods in Uttarakhand in 2013, the Supreme Court had put a temporary halt on all new HEP projects, and had asked the government to examine the feasibility of the HEP’s and submit its recommendations.

The next hearing of the Supreme Court on the issue is scheduled for January 20. Shekhar has been given a month’s time to complete his recommendations so that the government can take a final decision and convey it to the Supreme Court on January 20.

(Photo: www.gangarights.org)

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Water Quality of River Ganga Gets improved Amidst Nationwide Lockdown

The lockdown has done what other government projects could not do for the Ganga

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The water quality of the Ganga river in Uttar Pradesh has improved considerably in cities like Varanasi and Kanpur. Wikimedia Commons

The national lockdown to check the spread of Covid-19 has thrown up something to smile about. The water quality of the Ganga river in Uttar Pradesh has improved considerably in cities like Varanasi and Kanpur.

Dr P.K. Mishra, Professor at Chemical Engineering & Technology, IIT-BHU, Varanasi, said that there has been 40-50 per cent improvement in quality of water in the Ganga.

This is primarily because factories along the river bank that discharged effluents into the Ganga have been shut due to the lockdown and this has naturally improved the water quality. Kalika Singh, regional officer of the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) in Varanasi said: “The dissolved oxygen level upstream in river Ganga is 8.9 mg per litre while downstream, the dissolved oxygen level is 8.3 mg per litre. This clearly shows that water quality has improved significantly, and it is good for bathing. Healthy water should have a dissolved oxygen level of at least 7 mg/litre.”

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Singh said that during the lockdown period, the air quality in Varanasi had also improved.
“The roads in Varanasi are completely deserted because people are inside their houses and all vehicles are off the roads. Those engaged in essential services can only be seen in the city with their vehicles. Due to this, the air quality has improved in the city,” he said.

The Ganga enters Uttar Pradesh in Bijnor district and passes through major districts such as Meerut, Bulandshahr, Aligarh, Kanpur, Allahabad, and Varanasi. In Kanpur too, the Ganga waters are cleaner.

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Dr P.K. Mishra, Professor at Chemical Engineering & Technology, IIT-BHU, Varanasi, said that there has been 40-50 per cent improvement in quality of water in the Ganga. Wikimedia Commons

A priest at the famous Parmat temple in Kanpur, said: “The major cause of water pollution in Kanpur is the toxic industrial waste which is discharged into the river. Since all the factories are closed due to the lockdown, the Ganga river has become cleaner. The priests at the temple earlier used to refrain from taking a holy dip because the water was highly contaminated. However, since the past week, we are bathing in the river.”

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The Sisamau drain which used to discharged millions of litres of dirty water into the river was completely tapped last year under the Namami Gange project. This has also brought down the water pollution but the improvement being witnessed at present is unprecedented.

The lockdown has done what other government projects could not do for the Ganga. (IANS)