Discarded bodies did not add to Ganga pollution: Ministry

Revered rivers: Pilgrims at the Sangam, the confluence of rivers Ganga and Yamuna, during Ganga Dussehra festival in Prayagraj on Sunday.   | Photo Credit: AP

The dumping of bodies in the Ganga, allegedly of those who died of COVID-19, did not increase pollution in the river, the Jal Shakti Ministry has said.

Also read: No bodies floating in Ganga at Rae Bareli, says administration

The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) had solicited reports in May from the Centre, and State Pollution Control Boards of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and the Central Water Commission on whether the disposal of cadavers in the river had affected water quality.

Data for April-June suggested that the water quality in terms of pH, DO (Dissolved Oxygen), BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) conformed with the bathing water quality criteria except “marginal deviations at few locations” and these weren't dissimilar from the water quality observed in previous years. They may not be attributed to incidents of floating dead bodies,” the NMCG has said in a report based on responses from these departments. The Hindu has viewed this report.

NHRC query

Reports of bodies floating in the Ganga posing a health and environmental hazard triggered several public bodies into action, including, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).

On May 14, the Commission had asked the Centre, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh State governments to furnish a report following a complaint by a private citizen that several unclaimed or unidentified, unburnt/ partially burnt, bodies, were found floating in the “sacred” river Ganga. Some of the dead bodies were suspected to be of COVID-19 victims.

The complainant alleged that the disposal of bodies in and around river would not only pollute the river but also seriously affect all those persons who are dependent on the river.

Virus in water

Along with assessing water quality, the Secretary, Ministry of Jal Shakti decided after a meeting with the Chief Secretaries of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar on May 18 to study if the river water was contaminated with the SARS COV-2 virus from dead bodies being disposed in it. They also wanted to know if the virus could spread and infect those who came in contact with the water.

The ICMR-National Institute of Virology was approached study water samples from the river but they declined to take part in the study. The CSIR-Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (IITR), Lucknow has now been entrusted with the project.

They have collected samples from burial sites (Kannauj, Unnao, Kanpur, Prayagraj and Ghazipur districts) in Uttar Pradesh and Buxor and Saran districts in Bihar though results of the analysis aren't yet public.

Previous studies from the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad have shown that the coronavirus can be found in sewage and wastewater, and these have been used to estimate the prevalence of the infection in a cities and other urban locations.

The NMCG, a Jal Shakti Ministry body, is the nodal agency tasked with coordinating the over ₹20,000 crore initiative to clean the Ganga, a flagship programme of the government. One of the measures employed is to discourage a practice of disposing uncremated bodies into the river. To this end, the NMCG had funded projects to improve crematoria along the banks of the river in riparian States.

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Printable version | Jul 24, 2021 1:51:39 AM |

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