Rs.8 bn spent, but Ganga, Yamuna still dirty

March 11th, 2008 - 8:19 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 11 (IANS) The government has spent over Rs.8 billion in the last three years to clean up many Indian rivers, but major rivers like the Ganga and the Yamuna continue to flow dirty, the parliamentary standing committee of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOE&F) was informed Tuesday. A report to the committee by the ministry said central and state governments had added sewage treatment capacity to the tune of 1,011 million litres a day and had carried out 138 low-cost sanitation schemes in riverbanks during these three years.

“However, the problem observed is that the state governments do not have adequate resources to undertake proper operations and maintenance of assets created under the NRCP (National River Conservation Plan). This leads to under-utilisation of the assets created and reflects poorly on the impact of the works done.”

Most of the Rs.8 billion spent had gone into cleaning the drains that lead to the rivers, by putting in sewage treatment plants (STPs) and the sanitation facilities.

The 42-member parliamentary committee, chaired by V. Maitreyan, had last year expressed serious concern about continuing pollution of the Yamuna despite the amount of money spent on pollution abatement.

In reply, the government gave details of the ongoing schemes to clean the Yamuna - installation and repair of STPs, repair or replacement of trunk sewers in Delhi and Agra, and laying of sewer lines in six Haryana towns.

Despite these measures, the government told the committee, “the quality of water in the Yamuna river has not shown the desired improvement, particularly in Delhi, due to enormous increase in pollution load and lack of fresh water in the river during (the) lean period”.

“Due to ever-increasing population, leading to increased pollution load, and gap in the availability of Plan Outlay (lack of money), there is persistent divergence between the pollution load tackled and the actual pollution load,” the ministry added.

Last year, the committee had also expressed concern about the state of the high-profile Ganga Action Plan (GAP) meant to clean India’s longest and most famous river.

In reply, the ministry claimed “the water quality of the river Ganga has shown improvement at major locations over its pre-GAP quality as per the water quality monitoring undertaken by independent reputed institutions of the country”.

The ministry provided a list of two water quality parameters (March-June average) in 1986 and 2006 to prove its point. Dissolved oxygen (DO) is a measure in mg per litre that will go higher the cleaner the water, while biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) is a measure, also in mg per litre, that will go higher the more polluted the water.

The table showed that in important points along the Ganga, downstream of Kanpur, for instance, the DO had actually gone down drastically from 1986 to 2006, from 7.2 mg/litre to 3.9. The same was true upstream of Patna, where the DO had gone down from 8.4 to 7.4 mg/litre and in Rajmahal (Bihar), where it had gone down from 7.8 to 7.2.

However, there were also major success stories: downstream of Allahabad (DO rising from 6.6 to 8.5 mg/litre) and of Varanasi (5.9 to 8.65).

The BOD concentration had remained more or less static over this 20-year period. Ministry officials have pointed to this as an achievement of GAP, given the rising population and pollution load. But the BOD count continues to remain above danger levels.

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