In India, river pollution has crossed the mark of crisis. Three important river systems of the north like Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra are suffering from pollution.
Fresh water is only 2.7 per cent out of total water available in nature. The remaining 97.3 per cent is saline water. Out of the total fresh water (2.7%), 0.003 per cent water exists in rivers, whose total volume is 108 cubic km while the volume of water existing in lakes is 1, 26,070 cubic km. Thus, the water deposit in lakes is more than the water deposit in rivers.
But even though water of rivers is lesser than that of lakes, river water is more important because it is distributed over a larger part. River water continues flowing and does not remain in any river for more than two weeks whereas, water of lakes remains there for years.
River water is used to a maximum extent because of its common reach to the biotic community. Maximum economic activities concentrate around rivers. At present, 50 per cent population of the world resides in 250 river basins, where they use river water for different activities including agriculture and industry. In India, dense population is settled near the banks of rivers Ganga, Yamuna, Damodar, Hooghly, Cauvery, Godavari and Chambal. This has polluted these rivers to a large extent. Rhine river of Europe, literal meaning of which is pure (Rhine=Pure), is polluted to a great extent.
In Ruhar river basin, at the junction of river Rhine and river Ruhar, death is caused by bathing and swimming there. Every hour 1,200 ton polluted salts are disposed off in river Rhine. Due to pollution, Rhine is called “Europe’s Sewage Ditch’. Water of river Rhine sustains about 20 million persons who are suffering health hazards continuously due to pollution of water.
The main river Seine of France on whose banks the city of Paris is located is being polluted incessantly. Heaps of dead fish and sewage foam are spreading near its banks. According to one study, in the total length from Paris on river Seine to La Harre (Port located in the English Channel), about one million cubic metre polluted sewage water is disposed. Similarly in Po river of Italy, about 300 million ton wastes are disposed off every year. Rivers of Scandinavian region are being polluted by acid rain caused due to winds coming from the side of Great Britain and Germany, which carry sulphuric acid in them.
In India, river pollution has crossed the mark of crisis. Three important river systems of the north like Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra are suffering from pollution. Maximum populated areas of the world are settled in all the three basins. These river systems originating from snow peaks of Himalayas are the basis of prosperity of India in different forms.
In southern India, river Godavari, Cauvery, Krishna and Mahanadi are highly polluted. Rivers of India are no more rivers but have been converted into filthy drains. The Comptroller and Auditor General (GAG) of India has entrusted the responsibility of examination of quality of water to the Environmental Research Laboratory (ERL), Lucknow.
ERL has divided tested water in five categories, i.e.. A, B, C, D and E. Description of these categories is given below:
1. Category (A): Suitable for Drinking
2. Category (B): Suitable for bathing, swimming and entertainment
3. Category (C): Potable after traditional treatment
4. Category (D): Suitable for fish and forest animals
5. Category (E): Suitable for irrigation, industrial cooling and waste disposal
In India, river pollution has extended in every context. In the hilly portion of Kulu Valley of Himachal Pradesh, water level of river Vyas has degenerated from ‘A’ level to ‘B’ level, though Manali is a famous tourist place of Kulu Valley. Lakhs of tourists from foreign and local places come here.
Due to increasing terrorist activities in Kashmir, the number of tourists has increased in Kulu valley. The water of river Beas is used for drinking purposes in Manali and Kulu but the attention of planners is not drawn towards the hotel and restaurant business, developing at a very fast rate where there is no proper arrangement for disposal of sewerage and waste. Plastic and other non-perishable materials are continuously disposed off in this river.
Pollution in River Ganga:
Water of river Ganga, which is considered as nectar in India, has become poisonous today. What to talk of drinking, it cannot even be used for bathing. A dangerous virus named Bacteriophase is found in the Ganga. The quantity of mud is increasing continuously. The cities of Haridwar, Bijnaur, Farukhabad, Kanpur, Allahabad, Banaras, Ghazipur, Ballia, Chhapra, Patna, Barauni and Munger are settled on the banks of river Ganga, dispose of sewage and industrial waste in the Ganga, spreading dangerous pollution.
Due to presence of such pollutant materials, ERL laboratory of Lucknow has placed water of river Ganga in ‘D’ category, according to which it water is not suitable for drinking and bathing. It can be used only for fisheries and forest creatures. Our relation with river Ganga is also from the historical point of view and not just from the religious angle. Our civilization and development is connected with this river basin. Jawaharlal Nehru had remarked that “The Ganga is Life of India”. In the beginning, the water of river Ganga was very pure, soft and healthy.
Our ancestors had framed rules for preserving the purity of its water but revolutionary economic development and increasing population during the 20th century have broken these rules. Brahm Puran scriptures written between 325 to 400 AD clearly stated that “Keep Ganga clean”. Throwing dirty water, throwing flowers after worship, washing filthy clothes, throwing of hair, rowdyism, doing vulgar activities, throwing of dirty clothes etc. were prohibited.
We could not think of pollution of river Ganga 1,500 years back. Today, as a result of it, water of river Ganga is going beyond the reach of the biotic community and we have played an important role in this. Mainstream of river Ganga flows through four states, i.e., Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, but its companion rivers bring water from Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.
In the Ganga, mainly silt, biotic and chemical pollutants are found. Silt is received from soil through soil erosion. About 150 crore ton silt is deposited in the Ganga every year. Soil erosion can be controlled by dense tree plantation in watershed areas. This can help get rid of the silt problem. Organic and chemical pollutants come from cities situated near the banks of river Ganga.
The waste of 29 big cities having population of more than one lakh and 23 medium cities having population ranging between 50,000 to one lakh situated on the banks of river, is mixing in it. In most of these cities, there is no sewerage system. Chemical pollutants from waste coming out of the industrial units situated on banks of the river also mix with the water polluting it.
The Ganga flows through densely populated areas of India. Among the big industries located on the banks of Ganga River, 86 are in Uttar Pradesh, three are in Bihar and 43 are in West Bengal. In Uttar Pradesh, 59 out of the 86 industries are leather industries, which dispose off poisonous chemicals in heavy quantities. Poisonous industrial wastes including acid, alkaline, sulphate, nitrate etc. also directly mix in the Ganga without any treatment.
Maximum domestic waste mixes in Ganga in West Bengal. Thus, on an average, among the pollutants mixing in Ganga, 80 per cent is domestic waste and 20 per cent is industrial waste. Domestic filth of the metropolitan city of Kolkata and the waste of nearby textile industries, paper industries, tanneries etc. is disposed off in the Bhagirathi-Hooghly river.
Ganga Action Plan:
Ganga Action Plan was started in 1986 for control of water pollution in the Ganga. The main function of this plan was to make river Ganga free from disposal of waste of the cities settled on the banks of the river. The scheme is to make Ganga pollution free from Rishikesh to Kolkata. The Central Pollution Control Board had prepared a five year project for the action plan in 1984. The Central Ganga Authority was formed for its implementation in 1985 and Ganga Action Plan was then launched to make the Ganga pollution free.
First Phase of Ganga Action Plan:
The first phase of the Ganga Action Plan (1986-1993) was inaugurated by late Rajiv Gandhi at the Rajendra Prasad Ghat of Banaras. A National Protection Agency was constituted for its implementation. During the first phase of Ganga Action Plan, 261 schemes involving an expenditure of 462 crores were undertaken in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. Up to the year 1999, 254 schemes had been completed. Under this plan, a scheme was prepared to divert 134 million litre out of 873 million litre waste water disposed by 25 cities declared as ‘A’ class in 1985.
The objectives of Ganga Action Plan are as under:
1. Convert drains carrying filthy water from different cities settled on the banks of river Ganga and divert sewage water to sewerage treatment plants. After treatment in refining plants, use water in fish farms and for irrigation and generate power from the remaining waste after treatment.
2. Establish sewage treatment plants in cities settled on the banks of river Ganga.
3. Construction of community latrines in cities located on the banks of river Ganga so that most of the sewage can be controlled at the source itself. Construction of electrified cremation grounds and suitable disposal areas for urban wastes.
4. Prevent situation pollution by controlling soil erosion from banks of the river.
5. Create awareness regarding pollution of river Ganga and make people conscious about its purification.
Special stations have been created at 27 places starting from Rishikesh in Uttaranchal to Utuberia in West Bengal for testing the quality of water of the river Ganga during the first phase of Ganga Action Plan. These stations are being operated by experts from Bharat Heavy Electricals (BHEL) Haridwar, National Environment Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) Nagpur, Patna University Research Institute etc.
Great achievements were expected from Ganga Action Plan in the first phase from 1986 to 1993, but in spite of all such great works on a large scale executed during such a long period, river Ganga has not been purified. In the name of making Ganga pollution free, hundreds of crores of rupees were wasted in the polluted water of the river, also starting economic pollution.
Ecologists also think that the condition of the ecology has deteriorated during the operation of Ganga Action Plan. Since the first phase of the Ganga Action Plan could not prove effective, the Government of India started the second phase of the Action Plan in the year 2001. The role of Uttar Pradesh Water Corporation, Central Pollution Board and Central Public Works Department and PWD still remain important in carrying out the plan.
The Yamuna River too has changed from its original form. In the ancient period, its water was called ‘Water of Faith’ due to its purity, but today its water is not considered fit for drinking or bathing. The latest research was conducted by Environment Research Laboratory- (ERL) Lucknow, as reported by Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India. At present, Yamuna water is suitable only for fish culture and for consumption by animals.
Yamuna is the main linking river of Ganga. It originates from the western slope of Bandar Poonchh of Yamunotri glacier. After starting from Yamunotri, it travels 1384 kms and joins river Ganga near Allahabad. During this flow route, Yamuna River is polluted by many polluting sources. Yamuna carries flow of chemical fertilizers and pesticides in large quantity from farm lands of Haryana. Not only this sewage water of Yamuna Nagar, Panipat, Sonepat, Karnal, Delhi, Gurgaon, Faridabad, Mathura, Agra and Itawa etc. cities also mixes in Yamuna.
Delhi Municipal Corporation contributes the most in polluting Yamuna River. Wastes and excreta water in large quantity from Okhla Industrial Estate is disposed off in Yamuna River. Apart from Delhi, disposal of sewage in large quantity is also done by Mathura and Agra. Like Delhi, industrial wastes along with sewage water pollute Yamuna here also. In Delhi, Yamuna water contains Benzene Hexa Chloride (BHC) at the rate of 218 nenogram per litre whereas, in Agra it contains BHC at the rate of 1733 nenogram per litre, which is six times more than that found in Delhi.
Due to eutrophication in Yamuna, the water has become greenish. Eutrophication is the creation of favourable conditions for development of plants. Increase in concentration of nutritive elements is a favourable activity for eutrophication of plants due to which maximum growth takes place in algae and phytoplankton. As a result of it, the water becomes greenish.
Yamuna Action Plan:
For making river Ganga free from pollution, its companion rivers were also placed on priority to make them pollution-free. Yamuna Action Plan was sanctioned in April 1993 to keep Yamuna clean. It was estimated to spend Rs 510 crores on this Action Plan. Different schemes covering 21 cities of Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh are being implemented to remove pollution from the water of river Yamuna.
Damodar River Pollution:
Damodar River is being affected by the big industries and mineral environment in Jharkhand and West Bengal. Industrial areas of Dhanbad, Sindri, Bokaro, Asansol, Burnpur, Raniganj and Durgapur are situated on its banks. Dhanbad coal area has the biggest coal fields of India spread over 450 sq. km. Coal ash in a large quantity from here is spreading a thick layer over the water of river Damodar. Besides the above rivers of Northern India, rivers Godavari, Chambal, Cauvery, Krishna and Mahanadi in South India have also come in the grip of pollution. To keep all these rivers free from pollution, various schemes are being executed with the assistance from many countries.