‘Plan to clean Ganga by 2019 impossible’

Modi’s ‘simplified’ plan a dream, warns ex-environment minister

Updated - November 16, 2021 07:16 pm IST

Published - September 08, 2014 06:57 pm IST - Kolkata

While there were many argumentts and counter argument over the cleaning up of the holy river Ganga, a file picture shows a man throwing waste materials into the river. A frequent scene on its banks. Photo: Ranjeet Kumar.

While there were many argumentts and counter argument over the cleaning up of the holy river Ganga, a file picture shows a man throwing waste materials into the river. A frequent scene on its banks. Photo: Ranjeet Kumar.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “simplified” plan to clean Ganga, is an “impossible task.” The government will never be able to clean the river before the next Lok Sabha election feels former Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh.

However, with a carefully drawn up strategy the river can be cleaned over 10 years, the former minister said in an interaction on climate change in Kolkata. In 1986, Rajiv Gandhi first tried to clean the 2,500 kilometre river. Later in 2009, Mr Ramesh launched his own brand of “Ganga Action Plan (GAP)” and now the Prime Minister has vowed to come up with his plan to clean the river. However, recent studies suggest pollution kept growing over all these three decades.

Cleaning up of Ganga by 2019 is an “impossible task” and the “biggest of all the dreams” of the BJP Government, said Jairam Ramesh. Analysing his conclusion, Mr Ramesh said that it is not easy to treat the pollutants in the river. “75% of the pollutants in the river are untreated municipal waste, while only 25% is industrial waste,” he said. “Perhaps it is possible to control the industrial effluents, but it is an impossible task to treat the municipality waste flowing into the river as we do not have sewage treatment facilities in most of these towns and cities,” Mr Ramesh said.

However, the former minister also said that if the sewage flowing in to the river is treated “properly” the project is doable. “River Rhine in Europe flows through six countries, while Ganga moves through only five states. When Rhine could be cleaned up, so it is doable but we can not underestimate the magnitude of the problem,” he said. “But it can never be done by 2019 as it would take at least three years to build sewage treatment facility if we could start now, which is impossible…Prime Minister has simplified the issue bit too much,” Mr Ramesh said.

Over all these three decades, however, the Ganga remained polluted, “despite programmes, funds and some attention” said Delhi based Centre For Science and Environment (CSE) in a recent paper and added: “Worse, recent studies show that pollution is increasing even in the stretches which were earlier considered clean.”

According to July 2013 estimates of the Central Pollution Control Board, fecal coliform levels in the main-stream of the river – some 2,500 km from Gangotri in Uttarakhand to Diamond Harbour in south Bengal – remain above the acceptable level in all stretches, other than its upper reaches, the CSE paper said.

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