Ganga basin States stare at rising crop failures

The report on the future of the Ganga basin comes at a time when experts have raised concerns over the lack of adequate safeguards to ensure the river’s health. The government has committed to reduce pollution in the Ganga by 70% by March 2019.

There aren’t any easy solutions to overcome the crisis, the report cautioned pointing out that there is no ‘silver bullet’ intervention that can solves all problems. Combinations of different interventions such as increasing water use efficiency and implementing a ‘more job per drop’ rather than striving for wholesale crop production are needed, it said. “The intervention that will result in the most beneficial impact is improvement of municipal waste water treatment. Whether central or de-central, whether high or low tech, reduction in pollution loads provides a positive return on investment both in availability of clean water for downstream uses, including ecosystem services, as well as a drastic reduction in water-related illnesses and deaths,” the report added.

Environmentalists say reducing pollution in the Ganga hinges on setting up sewage plants rather than ensuring that the natural flow of the river is not blocked, as that would hobble its propensity to clean itself.

Ecologists and river activists have embarked on a new agitation, as of Saturday in Delhi, to highlight the government’s apathy towards addressing ‘ecological flow,’ which refers to the minimum amount of water that must be maintained at all times through the year to ensure the river’s health.

River law

The government was to have operationalised the Ganga law to address the issue of the river’s ecology. The lack of such a law has triggered hunger strikes, mainly by activists in Haridwar, to give effect to the law.

One of them, 26-year-old Aatmabodhanand, from Matri Sadan (Haridwar) is on a ‘fast unto death’ since October 24, 2018. He took up the cause after the death of Swami Sanand (Prof. G.D. Agrawal) who died after 111 days of continuous fast. The Centre however maintains that it has set in motion most of the projects to clean the river and this will eventually ensure necessary ecological flow.