This article is written by Udita Prakash, a student at UPES, Dehradun pursuing BBA LLB. This article deals with the importance of the Ganga and the need to make it clean in the state of Bihar.
Bihar is located in the eastern part of the country and borders the Himalayas from the north and the plateau from the south, which are the source of the entire river that flows in Bihar. Although it is a completely landlocked state, it is very rich in water resources, both underground and surface. Ganga is Bihar’s main river entering the State from Chausa, which formed the boundary of Bhojpur and the Saran district. Our National Anthem speaks of our rivers: “… Yamuna, Ganga uchala jaladhi taranga“. Unfortunately, the sheer ignorance and thoughtless actions are destroying our rivers, the associated culture and contributing to climate change.
Intentionally failing to recognize the role of rivers in climate change is the reason why the interconnection of rivers is proposed, without a single reflection on the linking of culture and humanity, or the environmental implications. Rivers are part of our culture and heritage. Recognizing this, we perform river aartis and celebrate river festivals. Interestingly, we choose to ignore the poor health of the river. Human health is associated with the health of the river, but while we seek the best of doctors for our treatment, we rarely forget to take care of the health of the river.
Pollution of the river Ganga in Patna
In Patna, the Ganga River once flowed through the city, but it has drifted five to six kilometers from the city in the last 30 years. Apart from geogenic factors, sand mining and the rise of brick kilns are considered among the main factors contributing to this change. Experts believe that air pollution has also increased in Patna due to the change in the course of the river, as the wind towards the city causes the dry patches of the river banks to break up. “In the last 20 years, Gangaji has wandered too far from here, perhaps our sins have caused this. We pollute it a lot and dig into its heart (for mining) day and night. This was destined to happen, ”said Chandru Rai, a 72-year-old resident of Patna, who often comes to the ghats on the stretch of the Ganga River that flows through the city, to pray.
However, most of the ghats, a series of steps leading down to the river, in Bihar’s capital city Patna now face a stretch of dry land. The Ganga River, which once flowed through the city, has drifted at least five to six kilometers from its original course. Experts believe that the change in the river’s course is due to various reasons, both geogenic (as a result of geological processes) and anthropogenic (as a result of human activity).
With streams of untreated waste, chemical waste, sewage, idol divers, and human and animal remains ending up in the river, the self-cleaning quality of the “Gangajal” is seriously in question. Although the belief in Ganga remains intact due to its great religious significance, its physical condition leaves much to be desired due to its steadily declining health, especially along the Patna route. With streams of untreated waste, chemical waste, sewage, idol divers, and human and animal remains ending up in the river, the self-cleaning quality of the “Gangajal” is seriously in question. Noted environmentalist and HoD, a zoologist at Central University of South Bihar RK Sinha admitted that the state government’s utter apathy towards curbing untreated waste disposal was a major cause of the river’s increasing pollution.
Drawbacks of strategy made
Effect on biodiversity
Hasko Friedrich Niemann, a German Professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at the Central University of South Bihar (CUB), had noticed in his study that the level of pollution in the river was quite high, but the only saving grace is the high level of biomass. During his extensive field research, he was able to identify and observe around 240 species of freshwater invertebrates, of which 20 were new to describe, mainly from the unexplored parts of Nepal.
The first sewage treatment plant in Patna was established in Saidpur in 1936. At that time, it was more than enough to treat sewage and then pass it on to Saidpur Nullah for disposal in the outskirts. But as the city grew in size and population, the government installed three more sewage treatment plants in Beur, Pahari, and Karmali Chak in phase I of the Ganga Action Plan. The four plants together have installed capacity to treat around 104 MLD of wastewater, which is almost a third of the amount discharged per day. Furthermore, the capacity of the plants has been exhausted during the year due to a lack of proper care. “Although on paper, Bihar Rajya Jal Parshad (BRJP), the agencies in charge of dealing with wastewater disposal, claim that the plants are working at their 30-40% capacity, almost no amount of water is actually treated. “said Vijay Kumar Gupta, who recently conducted a poll for his weekly Prayas.
More plans, fewer executions
It’s not that the State Government never thought of restricting the flow of untreated water into the river. In 2009, the urban development department in Meinhardt, based in Singapore, prepared a plan for integrated sewage treatment plants as part of the Jawaharlal Nehru urban renewal mission(JNNURM). A former PMC official said the consultant had created a DPR of Rs 3000 Crore. However, for reasons known to the competent authorities, it could not be carried out. The PMC, for its part, stepped in to revive the project and asked the consultant in 2012 to provide extracts of Sewage Treatment Plant (STP). BRJP executive director Shirsath Kapil Ashok said three large STPs had been proposed as part of the Namami-Gange project to handle the treatment of around 400 MLD waters.
Measures were taken by the state government
In Patna, the capital of the Indian State of Bihar, the Ganges, which is already in a poor condition due to the increasing pollution and decreasing water, is rapidly moving away from it’s banks. No serious, scientific attempt has been made to tackle this crisis, experts and activists warned, while an ambitious Ganga Pathway project – the construction of a 20.5-kilometer elevated road in the river to alleviate traffic problems – is underway, a new threat.
Currently, dozens of boats, mostly motorboats, have been operating at least 2.5-3.5 kilometers from the riverbank in recent years to carry hundreds of villagers from river villages. Only during the monsoons, when water fills the arid area, do these motorboats operate near the Ghats.
Three years ago, the Bihar Government’s Water Resources Department, together with the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI, hereinafter) took steps to return the river to its original course by creating a 7 km long and 15-foot deep canal from Digha to Kalighat. It did so in response to an instruction from the Patna Supreme Court in response to public interest litigation filed against the project. But efforts to get the Ganga close to its south bank failed, despite spending INR 80 million ($ 1.2 million) on building the canal.
According to a study by a team of researchers from the Environment Department at A N College in Patna, the Ganges in Patna shifts 0.14 kilometers every year. The study blames the lack of dredging of the river bed in the last 30 years and the large-scale discharge of untreated wastewater into the river. In the time when steamers sailed the river in the state capital, excavators from Denmark dug up the river bed before each rainy season. Officials said the trench in the canal could not be dredged deep after the IWAI refused to move it because of the heavy runoff of untreated waste, including solid waste. The regular disposal of sludge-bearing drainage water made it difficult to restore the original course of the river. The ongoing construction of the Ganga trail has also proven to be a stumbling block to excavate the canal to ensure a smooth flow of water.
Pollution on the rise
Ganges pollution has increased rapidly. According to the Bihar State Pollution Control Board, the count of coliforms (a type of bacteria) in Ganges water has increased almost nine-fold in the last three years. At upstream Patna (Digha Ghat), it was 1890 per 100 ml in 2004. In 2006, the number increased to 14,962 per 100 ml. In downstream Patna (Gai Ghat), the coliform count was only 4870 per 100 ml in 2004. Two years later, the count increased to 38,292 per 100 ml. CM Nitish Kumar has expressed concern about the way the sewage is discharged into the Ganges and has reason to be concerned. There are three wastewater treatment plants in Patna, in Saidpur, Pahari, and Beur, with the capacity to treat 105 million liters of wastewater per day, assuming all three plants are operating normally. In the 1970s, 10,000 species of flora and fauna were found here in the Ganges. Now only about 2,500 species survive. The Ganges Action Plan appears not to have had the desired effect even after pumping Rs 55 million in phase I. The plan had envisaged the construction of baths and toilets on all the ghats. Not surprisingly, an assembly panel noted that it was regrettable that the responsibility for keeping the Ganges clean rests with an ineffective organization like Bihar Jal Parishad.
The Supreme Court’s decision to make Ganga clean in Patna
The Supreme Court has requested the Center’s response to an order from the National Green Court dismissing a guilty plea for illegal and unauthorized construction and other permanent invasions of the fragile Ganges floodplains in Patna. A court of Judges R F Nariman and Aniruddha Bose issued a notice to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Ministry of Jal Shakti, the National Mission for Clean Ganges, the Central Water Commission, and others. The High Court was hearing a statement filed by Patna resident Ashok Kumar Sinha against NGT’s June 30, 2020 order dismissing his statement against illegal construction and permanent encroachments on eco-fragile floodplains. The statement held that the Court approved the order without examining the detailed details of the offenders invading the Ganges floodplains in Patna presented by the Appellant. Illegal and unauthorized construction and permanent encroachments on the Ganges floodplain are creating huge amounts of waste, noise and generating a large amount of sewage.
They are increasing the risk to the life and property of the inhabitants who occupy the surroundings since every year the areas indicated in the previous paragraphs sink under the floods. Illegal constructions obstructed the natural course of the river, ” said the statement filed through lawyer Akash Vashishtha. The statement said they were causing harmful environmental impacts on the rich biodiversity and were destroying the habitat and thus, the very survival of dolphins, a Schedule I species under the Wildlife (Protection) Act of 1972, on the stretch.
The statement stated that the Court did not take into account the fact that a clean Ganges river was vital and essential to meet the drinking and domestic water needs of the 5.5 lakh population of the city, as the groundwater in the district was contaminated with arsenic.
To conclude, I would say that the Ganga is one of the holiest rivers which flows in India. It is the duty of every citizen of this country to make and keep it clean. Because of many reasons this holy river is polluted and has now started drying rapidly. If we do not start to preserve our holy river soon, then soon we will come to know about this in books or in history. Here, the measures taken by the Bihar Government and the Hon’ble Supreme Court are not enough until we become more passionate about making the Ganga clean. Thus, every citizen of India should start protecting the holy river and save it from extinction.
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