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Home Indian History & Culture World Water Day special: India’s holy river Ganga awaits a clean future

World Water Day special: India’s holy river Ganga awaits a clean future

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By Rituparna Chakrobarty

The deep grief of India’s holy river Ganga (Ganges) remains unsound. The river that flows through the industrial cities of Kanpur and Kashi (Varanasi) in Uttar Pradesh is presently being treated as a natural sewer.

The condition of the river is pitiable in the city with the Ganga, in both the cities, strewn with human corpses and animal carcasses, as well as non-biodegradable trash such as poly bags, plastic bottles and worship materials like flowers, clay idols, accounts books and so on.

To add on, open defecation in the river makes the people solely responsible for it. The wallowing cattle, clothes washing, detergent usage for various purposes are some of the most common sights at the ghats. A gradual decline has been seen in the population of fishes and turtles inhabiting the river. The once-flourishing river has been declared “dead”, with no aquatic life. As for those who survive, they struggle to survive with toxic elements inside their bodies, and are not fit for human consumption as well. The river water has also caused severe health problems in both the cities of North India. Additionally, people in Varanasi can be seen polluting the river while following religious rituals.

The condition of Ganga is worsening in Kanpur due to the repulsive odour of the river. As a result, tourists avoid taking boat rides, thereby severely affecting the livelihoods of the poor working there.

However, tourists in Kashi take boat rides to taste the elegance that the city is known for. While some of the boats are manually operated, many others are operated by motor. The latter uses diesel as fuel that contributes in the city’s air, water and noise pollution.

According to a WHO report, Kanpur is the 9th most polluted city in the world. There are 23 open drains that are directly and indirectly streaming their wastes and effluents into the Ganga. Kanpur has roughly 6,500 industries including large and small-scale which deal with fertilizers, paints, chemical and detergents and throw the untreated water directly into the river. Out of these, there are 350 tanneries that also merge dirt and waste water into the river. These tanneries are largely responsible for disturbing the ecology of the water and polluting it, creating a threat to the downstream villages.

According to the norm, factories have to create a primary sewage treatment plant in their premises before dispatching water into the river for secondary treatments at sewage treatment plants. One thing to note is that the city proposed a 171 mld sewage treatment plant and it is generating 500 mld sewage every day. Only 9 mld sewage treatment plant is authorized for tanneries, but it discharges only 50 mld. Rest of the sewage directly flows into the river.

A number of proposals have been made for the cleanliness drive at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency for the campaign to clean river Ganga. But the ground realities remain completely adverse – two sewage treatment plants combined together posses the capacity of 100.5 mld, while the city produces 350 mld waste regularly. The amount of water treated is not clear.

Uma bharti, Union Water Resources Minister, assured that it will be cleaned in a “qualitative manner” within the next two years. The state government also ensured that it will support the schemes initiated by the central government.

Whether or not the promises are fulfilled, one of India’s most ancient rivers awaits a sparkling existence, with every government.

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