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Just spending money won't clean Ganga, say experts

Views assume significance as NGT on Monday pulled up govt agencies for 'wasting public money'

IANS  |  New Delhi 

A view of the Ganga in Haridwar
A view of the Ganga in Haridwar

Just spending money on Treatment Plants (STPs) will not clean the river; what is needed is a comprehensive plan to stop from entering the river, say experts.

Their views assume significance in the light of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Monday pulling up government agencies for "wasting public money" in the name of cleaning the river.

"Not a single drop of the river has been cleaned so far," a bench headed by its Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar said.

Reputed water conservationist Rajendra Singh can only agree and he says that "distributing money for setting up machines" (STPs) won't bring good results unless there was a national protocol to stop water from flowing into our rivers.

Environmentalist C R Babu concurred, saying all the rivers and rivulets flowing in the Gangetic plan carry only and no river can be cleaned minus simultaneous efforts to clean towns and cites of

Sushmita Sengupta of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), however, felt that while the central government had an elaborate plan to clean the Ganga, concrete action on the field was still awaited.

The Ganga, considered by Hindus as the holiest of rivers, flows from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, covering 2,525 km across five states. Despite a Action Plan launched in 1985, the river remains highly polluted, particularly once it crosses Haridwar.

Rajendra Singh, known as the "Waterman of India", contended that the money spent on cleaning the was being "distributed" to contractors and companies with no experience in the field of river rejuvenation.

"They have given money for projects to install This money will go to those ... supplying iron, cement, concrete, pipes. But won't solve the problem," Singh told IANS.

"To comprehensively treat the river, there is need to ensure that dirty water does not find its way into Ganga, to separate all the 'nullahs' (drains) that merge with Ganga, to pass a law or formulate a national protocol to separate river from sewer," he added.

Singh, who won the Stockholm Water Prize (known as the Nobel Prize for water) in 2015, said: "What we need is to establish a system to ensure that dirty water doesn't mix with clean water. As for the dirty water, it should be treated and reused in agriculture, gardening, industry."

Babu, Professor Emeritus at Delhi University and head of the Centre for Environmental Management of Degraded Ecosystems, said the problem does not lie only with the cities.

"Many small rivers and rivulets coming from villages add only into the river during non-monsoon months," Babu told IANS, adding the obvious: the cannot be cleaned until discharge of into the river is stopped.

"You can't spend thousands of crores of rupees to and at the same time allow to enter the river. You continuously clean and you simultaneously pollute. This is not the way."

CSE's Sengupta, however, felt the government has tried to learn from earlier faults and now has an elaborate plan to clean the But she added that the impact can be seen only when there was an improvement in the quality or flow of water.

"Even Central Control Board data show there is no appreciable impact on the quality of river water," Sengupta told IANS.

Most work of cleaning coastal debris like flowers, plastic, dead bodies and upgrading was done during the UPA regime, she said. "Some new projects have now come in. But they are small in terms of percentage."

Under the Gram project, the government plans to develop villages located along the main stream of the river which have historic, cultural and religious or tourist importance.

First Published: Wed, February 08 2017. 16:44 IST