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This article is written by Abhinav Anand, a student pursuing B.A.LL.B(Hons.) from DSNLU, Visakhapatnam. The article deals with the Ganga pollution case and the peruses into reasons behind the pollution. It also discusses some of the schemes of the government to purify the river and critically analyses its impact. It further suggests changes that should be done to make the effective implementation.


Water Pollution has become a global crisis. The perennial threat of the water crisis is exacerbating because of uncontrolled and unbalanced development of the allied sectors such as industries and agriculture. According to the reports of NITI Aayog, 21 major Indian cities, including Delhi will completely run out of groundwater. This article deals with reasons behind the pollution of the river Ganga and it examines the effective measures taken by the government. It also suggests changes to expedite the cleaning process of the river.

Reasons behind the Pollution of Ganga


There are 4600 industries in Uttarakhand out of which 298 are seriously polluting industries. There are many industries which have not taken permission from the Uttarakhand pollution control board for their operations and they started their operation based on the advisory of the government in which the government exempted certain classes of industries from taking permission. The sewage treatment and advanced technology for the treatment of the wastes are not used despite government strict regulations.


Sewage is an important source of pollution and contributes 75% to the pollution caused by all sources of pollution. Urban development of different sizes contributes to sewage pollution in the river. The considerable efforts by the Ganga Action Plan are not able to improve the situation.

The report says that despite the failure of the Ganga Action Plan there is no disapproval on the part of the citizens as well as their representative living in urban areas on the banks of the river. The failure is on the part of the government agencies responsible for the effective implementation of the plan. 

The urban citizens residing near the river show a lack of interest in the cleanliness of the river. The representatives of the urban areas are not receiving enough complaints from the citizens and as a result, they refrain from raising this issue to the higher authorities. Based on the analysis done by the independent authorities, the political parties show reluctance to increase the taxes because they may lose the support of their voters. The taxes will help the authorities to have financial validity. The Kanpur Nagar Nigam has to pay operation and management taxes to the Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam for the operation and maintenance of the services in the Ganga Action Plan. 

However, the Kanpur Nagar Nigam is unable to collect taxes from the users of the services of Ganga Action Plan to pay to the Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam. So, the government directly transfers the money to the Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam by cutting the share of the Kanpur Nagar Nigam. 

It has been contended that the decentralisation of funds and functionaries will help in improving the condition of the governance at Urban Level. But, it is evident that the urban local bodies are neither motivated nor passionate to do the assigned duty. 

Municipal Corporation

These are the following factors contributing to the waste in the river:


The use of plastic by people at large and its improper disposal ultimately reach in the river. Plastic pollution has been considered as one of the significant reasons for the pollution in the river. The government has failed in the implementation of Management and Sewage Waste Rules to curb the menace of plastic pollution.

The state should declare a complete ban on the use of plastic. The authorities pay no attention to the rampant use of plastics and the improper treatment of wastes before releasing them in the river. The pollution level of water has exponentially risen because of plastic wastes. The Tribunal while dealing with the matter of pollution on the ghats has banned the use of plastic in the vicinity of ghats.

However, the ban imposed by the tribunal has no effect on the ground level and the plastics are used rampantly. The plastic bags can be replaced by the jute bags which are nature friendly.


The Ghats are also one of the major sources of pollution in the river. Ganga is one of the important parts of our Indian culture due to which different kinds of pujas and other religious tasks are performed on the ghats, and the materials used are disposed of in the river. The materials are non-decomposable, highly toxic and hence pollute the river. 

Agriculture Waste

Agricultural water pollution includes the sediments, fertilizers and animal wastes. The unbalanced use of inorganic fertilizers and other fertilizers have immensely contributed to water pollution. The fertilizers rich in nitrates create toxic composition after reaching several other entities. Large quantities of fertilizers, when washed through the irrigation, rain or drainage to the river, and pollutes the river. The fertilizers rich in nitrate content are used to get more productivity from the land. This led to pollution in the entire food chain wherever the by-product of the produce is consumed. When these fertilisers wash away due to rain or other factors and pollute the river.

Effective Measures by Government to stop the Pollution
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Ganga Action Plan

The Ganga Action Plan was started in 1986 for control of water pollution in the river Ganga. The main function of this plan was to make Ganga River free from the pollution from the disposal of waste from the cities settled on the banks of the river. The plan was to make Ganga pollution free from Rishikesh to Kolkata. The central pollution control board had prepared a plan of 5 years in 1984 to make Ganga pollution-free. The central Ganga authority was formed in 1985 and a Ganga action plan was launched in 1986 to make the Ganga pollution free. 

The first phase of the Ganga action plan was inaugurated by late Rajiv Gandhi at Rajendra prasad ghat of Banaras. The National Protection Agency was constituted for its implementation. During the first phase of Ganga Action Plan 256 schemes of 462 crores were undertaken in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. Special stations have been created to check the quality of water.

The experts from Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited and National Environment Engineering Research Institute were appointed to check the quality of the water. Despite so much effort, the Ganga action plan failed miserably and crores of money were spent on the Ganga action plans. The failure of such a big plan has led to economic pollution.

The government launched the second phase of the Ganga Action Plan in 2001 wherein the central pollution board, central public works department and public works department are the bodies to carry out the plan. 

Namami Ganga Programme

A flagship Namami Ganga Programme was launched under separate union Water Ministry created under river rejuvenation programme. The project aims to integrate Ganga conservation mission and it is in effect to clean and protect the river and gain socio-economic benefits by job creation, improved livelihoods and health benefits to the population that is dependent on the river.

The key achievement of the Namami Ganga projects are:

  1. Creating sewage treatment capacity- 63 sewerage management project under implementation in the states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. 12 sewerage management projects launched in these projects.
  2. Creating riverfront development: 28 riverfront development projects and 33 entry-level projects for construction, management and renovation of 182 ghats and 118 crematoria has been initiated.
  3. River surface cleaning: The river surface cleaning is the collection of solid floating waste on the ghats and rivers.after collection, these wastes are pumped into the treatment stations.
  4. Public Awareness: Various activities such as seminars, workshops and conferences and numerous activities are organised to aware the public and increase the community transmission.
  5. Industrial Effluent Monitoring: The Grossly Polluting Industries monitored on a regular basis. Industries are following the set standard of the environmental compliances are checked. The reports are sent directly to the central pollution control board without any involvement of intermediaries.


These are the following suggestion for making the existing machinery robust to expedite cleanliness process of the Ganga:

Development of a comprehensive and basic plan

We need to develop a plan by which we can reach the problem in a holistic way. The already devised plans involve many intermediaries wherein the transparency factor is cornered and only paper works are shown to the people at large. 

The strategy should be formulated for different areas according to their demand. The people having apt knowledge of that area should be involved to know the actual problem of pollution in the river. A thorough check should be done and a customer-friendly platform should be formed wherein the views of every individual should be considered.

Measurement of the quality

The apt instruments are required to measure the quality of the water. We have many schemes for the cleanliness of the Ganga but the officials assigned the duty of measuring the quality of water either have authoritarian pressure or lack of knowledge to assess the quality of water. The quality of water should be measured by a recognised testing agency. Further, the research should be made to evolve better machinery for precision in quality measurement.

Getting the institutions right

The main task is to get the involved institution on the right path. The river cleaning task demands leadership, autonomy and proper management. The cities need to be amended. Ultimately they will be the custodians of the networks developed for the cleanliness process. Many cities have weak financial powers and their revenue generation is also weak so they should be given extra incentives. An awareness campaign should be launched in small cities where people have no idea about the pollution of the river and how it affects the environment. 

Engaging and mobilising all the stakeholders

The inhabitants of the river Ganga are people, elected representatives, and the religious leaders who consider the river as a pious and clean river. The mass awareness campaign can launch only when these people will be under sound financial conditions. So, if a portion is invested in these people, then it will help to develop their thinking on a large scale. 

A similar situation has arisen in Australia where the government has invested 20% of the funds in creating mass awareness among the people for the cleanliness of the Murray river basin. It has shown a great impact on the productivity of the programmes implemented in Australia. So, when we promote all the stakeholders in one or the other way we can see a holistic development in the situation.

Rejuvenation requires equal attention to quality and quantity

The rejuvenation of rivers requires quality and quantity at the same time. The old adage of “ solution to pollution is dilution” should be kept in mind while making any kind of plan. 

The improvement of water quality in Ganga during the Kumbh Mela is the result of the release of water barrage of the water upstream. The water in the upper stream is used in the agriculture process by the respective states. So, if the water is released on a regular basis it will also help to improve the quality of the water and reduce the pollution level in the water. 


Ganga is considered a pious river in the religious scriptures. The current situation demands holistic accountability from the authorities and people to make it clean. The global image is projected by the cleanliness of our rivers. The river Ganga is a part of our culture and it is our duty to maintain its sanctity. The government should formulate a more stringent policy to develop the quality of the water in the river. The environmental laws should be strictly followed and the violators should be punished. 



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