According to the government reports about half of Indian rivers are polluted. Since the onset of urbanization and industrialization, rivers have borne the brunt of the negative effects of rapid economic development. In July 2014, “Namami Gange” program was launched under the National Mission for Clean Ganga. Clean Ganga Mission is India’s most ambitious endeavor to clean Ganga River. The mission is funded centrally with a non-lapsable corpus of Rs 20000 crore. It covers nearly 288 projects like construction of ghats, conservation of trees and biodiversity, sewage management, industrial discharge management, beautification of several ghats etc.
Factors behind pollution of Indian rivers
- With Industrialization, more wastewater is discharged into the rivers.
- Agricultural runoff – Excessive use of pesticides in agriculture has become a major threat to rivers.
- Dumping of solid waste like plastics and flowers into the rivers.
- Massive groundwater abstraction.
- Cultural factors like immersion of idols and ashes in the rivers.
- Commercial fishing.
- Movement of Large vessels.
- Construction of dams and barrages. Modification of river habitat like dredging and canalization for navigation.
- Lack of Infrastructure: Less number of treatment plants
- With rapid urbanization, there is an increase in the instances of encroachments of the Indian rivers.
- Non-enforcement of a plethora of laws that regulate waste management and protect water quality.
- Failure of efforts of various programmes of river conservation.
Issues related to Ganga pollution
- Depleting water levels: Base flow has decreased to more than 60% of what it was in 1970. Flow will decrease to 75% in the next 20-30 years.
- Upper reaches of Ganga have facial coliform
- 500 million people are dependent on river Ganga.
- State pollution control board claims that Ganga in some places has become ‘e-class’, i.e. not even fit for animal bathing.
- Lack of a single accountable authority responsible for river pollution prevention.
- Lack of inter coordination among different ministries like water resource ministry and environment ministry.
- Delays in state funding
- Proper utilization of funds remains an issue because of bureaucratic hurdles and red tape.
- Lack of will to complete the projects on time due to delayed meetings and concrete planning.
- The societies formed do not have requisite power to tackle issues related to environment and related subjects.
Consequences of river pollution
- Loss of biodiversity of rivers.
- Cases of floods in monsoon and droughts in summers are increasing.
- Heavy metals in rivers cause neurological disorders, impaired growth of children.
- Various respiratory diseases.
- Decrease yields in agriculture.
- Loss of productivity and loss of economic growth.
- Reduction in the number of dolphins, Gharial, turtle, and various other living beings.
Steps to be taken to clean Ganga River
- Keeping strict short-term goals.
- Regular audit of expenditure.
- Frequent water quality check and cleanup process.
- Holistic solution by involving all concerned bodies.
- Increasing the number of urban river management plant.
- Strict penalties for builders on encroaching upon the water bodies.
- Recycling of wastewater by the industries.
- Afforestation and Biodiversity conservation along the river flow.
- Increasing compliance by the general public by promoting behavioral change.
- Reducing mining activities near Ganga.
- Maintaining a standard distance between rivers and industrial plants.
- Strong co-operation between states and center
- Awareness creation for biodiversity conservation and community participation.
- Bioremediation method in pollution treatment.
- Better Infrastructure coupled with efficient use of technology
- NGOs and civil societies should be encouraged to promote public awareness.
- Strict penalties for violation of environmental laws.
- Reducing plastic waste.
- Increasing funds for research in waste recycling technologies. Countries like Israel; Singapore manages to recycle and reuse most of their water. India should partner with these countries to learn new technologies of waste recycling.
- Granting status of ‘living entities’ to rivers that are critically polluted to save them from further pollution. Living entities status has been provided to some rivers by our courts in India.
Some Highlights of Clean Ganga Mission
- Cleaning of rivers in Varanasi, Kanpur, Allahabad, Mathura and Patna and building 123 new ghats.
- Crematorium to be built at these 5 cities nearby Ganga to solve the problem of dumping of dead bodies.
- Sewage treatment plants are being made to prevent untreated households and industrial wastage from being dumped directly into Ganga River.
- Declaration and monitoring of open defecation free nearby villages.
- Afforestation plans have been made to improve the environmental balance.
Social Movements and Activists related to clean Ganga River
- Mega rally in June 2012 – Ganga Mukti Sangram Samiti initiated a mega rally to create awareness among the people for the restoration of river Ganga.
- Swami Jitendra and Saraswati alias Acharya Jitendra – He is working since 2000 to create awareness among people for the restoration of river Ganga. He is the National General Secretary of Ganga Mahasabha.
- Swami Nigamananda Saraswati fasted unto death, protesting against illegal mining happening in river Ganga in Haridwar district.
- G. D. Agrawal associated with Ganga Mahasabha sat for fast unto death twice in 2008 and 2009. Prof. G. D. Agrawal died on 11 October 2018, after fasting since 22 June 2018, demanding the government to restore river Ganga.
- Rama Rauta founded the Save Ganga Movement in 1998.
Note: One of the questions that can be asked in rbi general awareness paper is about the list of schemes or social movement started for clean Ganga mission
India and Goal 6
The Sustainable Development Goals are a collection of 17 global goals set by the UN General Assembly in the year 2015. The Goal 6 aims to achieve universal access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation and hygiene to all by the year 2030. The overall percentage of households in India with access to better water sources has seen a jump from 68% in 1992-93 to 89.9% in 2015-16. However, in the year 2015-16, 63.3% of households in rural India and 19.7% of households in urban Indian were not using proper sanitation facilities. These figures have shown significant improvements since the introduction of various flagship programmes like Swachh Bharat Abhiyan to clean India, the National Rural Drinking Water Programme to improve clean drinking water facilities in the country, and Namami Gange, which aims to restore River Ganga.
The balanced growth between human civilization and the natural ecosystem is mandatory for the harmonious relationship between the two. The rivers are the lifeline of human society. Rivers are the main center of growth, only with a healthy river a healthy civilized society can sustain. Degradation of one affects the other. 2013 World Bank study estimated that environmental degradation is costing Indian at least 80 billion a year, of which loses to rivers forms a significant part. Urgent measures are needed to revive India’s rivers, to protect its agriculture, and prevent serious harm to public health from contaminated water. Due to the cultural aspect of Ganga, the funding for its cleanliness stands at 20000 crore whereas 17 states got only 351 crore for conserving 32 rivers.
The scarcity of water and its unavailability is not only ethically wrong but also violates the fundamental right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution. It also increases the distance to achieve the SDG – 6. Reviving India’s dying rivers is the need of the hour to protect its agriculture and prevent harm to public health from contaminated water.
Note: This article is important for UPSC general studies and RBI general awareness in the Ecology and Environment section. You can get question from this topic in general awareness questions for rbi grade b exam