Despite the sluggish work of cleaning the Ganga under Namami Gange project in Uttarakhand, chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat claimed on Sunday that the river will be clean till Haridwar by 2020.
“All drains flowing into the river with untreated sewage will be stopped and the Ganga will be clean till Haridwar by 2020” Rawat said at a media event when asked about the status of the Clean Ganga project in Uttarakhand. He said there was no dearth of funds to clean the river of pollution caused by the discharge of untreated sewage.
An RTI reply by the state government has revealed that the water of the Ganga is now even good for drinking in Haridwar. In comparison, a dip in the Ganga downstream at Sangam in Allahabad, could expose people to levels of the faecal coliform (FC) that are 5-13 times the permissible limit, official data from 2017 shows.
The main stem of the river flows in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal before it drains into the Bay of Bengal.
For decades, towns along the banks of the river in the hills have been discharging sewage directly into the river. According to government data, 23 new sewerage treatment plants (STPs) will be established in the Ganga basin in Uttarakhand while five will be upgraded. The new STPs will have a capacity to treat 6.47 million litres per day (MLD) whereas the five upgraded STPs including two in Haridwar and one in Rishikesh will have a treatment capacity of 53.5 MLD.
A sum of Rs 273 crores has been sanctioned for the 28 STPs and so far Rs 12 crores have been spent. A detailed report shows the official machinery in the state has so far submitted preliminary plans for 21 of the 38 STPs in Rudraprayag, Karnaprayag, Nandprayag, Badrinath and Gopeshwar. This means the actual work in these projects will take more time than expected.
The Prime Minister’s ambitious Namami Gange programme was launched in 2014 with a sanctioned budget of Rs 20,000 crore. The first phase of the work is expected to be completed in five years but with more than 36 months already gone, the government is a bit concerned.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Uttarakhand understands that a faster clean-up will allow the party to showcase some of the work ahead of the 2019 general elections but the chief minister made it clear that cleaning the Ganga is a huge task.
“The Ganga is a huge river. The Ganga basin roughly covers 50 lakh sq kms area and therefore it (cleaning) won’t alone happen in next 2-3 years” Rawat said.
Meanwhile Swami Chidanand, head of the Rishikesh based Pramarh Ashram said that seven drains flows directly into the river in the pilgrim town. He said he would be happy “to adopt a drain so that sewerage and garbage could be stopped at the source”.
According to the estimates of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) only 1,000 million litres sewerage is treated daily against 3,000 million litres that that goes into the main river. Moreover, 12,000 million liters sewerage goes into the Ganga river basin daily of which only 4,000 million litres is treated. The number of human settlements, hotels and industries located along the river play a big role in polluting river as many of them do not have sewage treatment plants.
The NGRBA is currently working on 57 project of sewerage treatment plant in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal with combined capacity to treat 470.53 million liters of sewerage in a day.