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Cost hurdle in Ganga clean up adds to "reduced" natural flow beyond Kanpur due to agricultural pressure: Report

Polluting coal-fired power plant along Ganga in West Bengal
Counterview Desk
A media study team, investigating pollution levels of Ganga three years after the Narendra Modi government came up with its Ganga Action Plan to clean up India's most revered river, has revealed that only 10 per cent of the sewage produced along the mainstream of the river, and collected over its 2,500 km stretch, is treated.
Quoting officials, a report by the investigation team insists that the focus on industry and sewerage treatment plants (STPs) has been "misguided", what has still not been addressed is a "deeper problem" -- the dwindling flow of Ganga. "Over 90 per cent of water is diverted for agriculture before the river reaches Kanpur about halfway through its journey, leaving it unable to flush out pollution or dilute the toxins", it says.
Quoting sources from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), the investigation report says, from the glaciers of the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, the river collects toxic waste from half billion of people. However, it believes, cleaning up the waste faces a major cost hurdle.
The cost involved in "cleaning up" Ganga in West Bengal alone, the report says, is huge – just to build "the necessary sewerage plants would require an extra INR 13,467 crore (USD 2 billion) and another INR 100 crore (USD 15 million) a year for repairs – a money the state does not have."
"In the past, the central government funded all the costs of setting up and running effluent treatment plants along the Ganga. Now, under the National Mission for Clean Ganga, it has decided the cash strapped state governments will have to take over", the investigation says.
The report says, while "the iconic ghats of Varanasi and the toxic tanneries of Kanpur" have received considerable attention, what is little known is, "over 7 billion litres of raw sewerage are dumped into the Ganga every day from hundreds of towns along the river and its tributaries, and almost half comes from West Bengal."
Quoting Kalyan Rudra, chairman of the West Bengal Pollution Control Board and a hydrologist who has been tracking the state of the river for many years, the report says, "The state contributes 48% of wastewater produced in the Ganga basin and only treats 42% of this – leaving 1,779 MLD (million litres a day) of untreated waste flowing from the 54 drains throughout the state."
“Untreated sewerage is the biggest problem,” Rudra is quoted as saying, adding, "It accounts for about 85 per cent of the pollution in the river. The rest comes from industrial heavy metals, pesticides from agriculture, solid waste, human bodies and animal carcasses."
The report says, "At its worst in West Bengal, the river contains 160,000 faecal coliform bacteria per 100 ml, a clear sign of human excreta (the World Health Organisation puts the safe limit at 1,000 per 100 ml). The problem is more widespread."
The problem remains intact even after West Bengal closing down "95 heavily polluting industries, along with the 94 shut down in Uttar Pradesh", the report says, adding, "Travelling up the Bhagirathi-Hooghly from Kolkata, a series of illegal cottage industries amid banana plantations, dirty brick kilns and coal-fired power stations can be seen pumping out waste into the river."

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