Crores of rupees being spent on saving the Ganga from pollution does not seem to be working as bacterial contamination in India’s most sacred river has crossed the maximum permissible limit at several key cities due to discharge of sewage, Environment and Forests Minister Jayanthi Natarajan said in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

“The levels of bacterial contamination in terms of faecal coliform are reported to be exceeding the maximum permissible limit at a number of locations,” she said.

“There is no doubt that our holy river is very polluted, and the flow of the river also is not to the extent that it ought to be to maintain the purity and the continuous ecological flow of the river as we desire … All along the river, the industrial effluent accounts for about 20 per cent; 80 per cent is basically the domestic untreated sewage which flows out from the cities that lie along the river Ganga,” she said replying to a question in the Upper House.

Pointing out that lack of coordination between the Central and State agencies was affecting proper implementation of various projects, Ms. Natarajan said: “Money is allotted for sewage treatment plants and for central effluent treatment plants. But unfortunately, all those plants do not work, perhaps, because of lack of electricity and perhaps, because the network of sewers is not connected to the central plants in that particular city.”

The Minister, however, said the water quality in terms of BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) values was reported to have improved, compared to the pre-Ganga Action Plan (GAP) water quality on major monitoring locations.

The government is implementing GAP since 1985 for undertaking pollution abatement activities in the identified polluted stretches through implementation of works like interception and diversion of sewage and setting up treatment plants.

The project, involving an estimated cost of Rs. 7,000 crore, has been approved under the National Ganga River Basin Authority, while Rs. 1,441 crore has been released for the implementation of various pollution abatement works in towns along the Ganga, and sewage treatment capacity of 1,091 million litres per day has been created.

Pesticide residues found

Meanwhile, Minister of Rural Development, Drinking Water and Sanitation Jairam Ramesh said residues of different pesticides have been found in groundwater in the key Ganga river basin States of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Quoting an IIT-Delhi study, he said the groundwater in Palla-Burari region near Delhi was found to contain moderately high levels of pesticides, some of them residues of long-banned pesticides such as DDT.

He also pointed out that a larger study on the entire Ganga basin covering Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar has shown that different organochloride pesticide residues are present in different regions of the river basin depending upon land use pattern.

“HCH, a by-product of agricultural insecticide lidane, was detected mostly in the mountainous stretch of Uttarakhand. The water in Uttar Pradesh contained more of endosulfan residues, while the Bihar region contained more of aldrin group of pesticides,” he added.