‘Clean Ganga and Yamuna mission a failure’
The Parliamentary Committee on Environment and Forests has found that the mission to clean Ganga and Yamuna has failed. It says undue investment on technical aspects like creating sewage treatment plants to prevent the pollution in river Ganga without involving people living on the banks of the river are the reasons for it. In its report on demands for grant for the year 2012-13 for the Union environment ministry, the committee said in the last twenty years, the ministry has spent Rs 39,226-crore on cleaning river Ganga and Rs 1,306 crore on Yamuna but the quality of water in both the rivers is deteriorating day-by-day. The report has been tabled in the Rajya Sabha on May 18.
The committee noted that initiative to clean Ganga started somewhere in the sixth Five Year Plan under Ganga Action Plan. Thereafter, Ganga Action Plan-II and some other schemes with different names were operationalised by the ministry. In 2009, the ministry set up National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) which aims that by 2020 no untreated municipal sewage or industrial effluent will flow into the river Ganga. Under the programme 53 projects for abatement of pollution in the river have been sanctioned since 2009-10 in 42 towns of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal at an estimated cost of Rs 2,598.48 crore.
Similarly, Yamuna Action Plan Phase-I was launched by the ministry in 1993 and had been completed at a total cost of Rs 682 crore in 2003. Under this Plan, a sewage treatment capacity of 753.25 million litre per day has been created in Haryana, Delhi and UP. Thereafter, Yamuna Action Plan Phase-II was initiated at an estimated cost of Rs 624 crore. Now, Yamuna Action Plan-III is envisaged to be implemented in Delhi at an estimated cost of Rs 1,656.00 crore.
“The committee is constrained to observe that despite whatever efforts made hitherto and a huge investment incurred under various schemes/projects, pollution level in both the rivers, continues to increase unabated. The pathetic condition of Yamuna which has virtually turned into a ‘Nala’ to carry sewage falling into it from various drains, is deplorable. The water quality of the Ganga has not shown any significant improvement either and it is deteriorating day by day. The quality of Ganga water downstream at several important locations, such as, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi and Patna still continues to be a major concern for the environmentalist, as well as, the common man,” said the committee.
The committee thinks the reason for the failure of these schemes is the fact that the ministry has ignored the social aspects of pollution in the rivers. “Government has so far adopted only engineering-centric approach to solve the problem with undue emphasis on creation of sewage treatment plants, etc. The ministry should also approach it as a social engineering problem. People living on and around the banks of the rivers should be involved and assimilated in the Mission Clean Ganga. Services of various institutes of social sciences, apart from IITs should be sought by the government to seek a viable solution of the pollution,” said the report.
The committee also noted that the schemes for cleaning the two rivers have failed because their catchment areas have been encroached upon and diverted for construction and developmental activities. “The retention capacity of water/ rainwater in the catchment areas has considerably gone down due to which the river does not get recharged,” it said. It asked the ministry to take steps to stop encroachment and illegal commercial activities on the catchment areas of all the major rivers including the Ganga and the Yamuna. It also told the ministry to take steps to ensure that the flow of the river Yamuna and the Ganga upstream is not disturbed or blocked and a minimum flow is maintained. “Yet another reason for the failure in cleaning the rivers is the day by day dwindling of their natural flow which has resulted in the assimilating capacity of the river Yamuna almost coming to a naught and of the river Ganga going down. The committee is of the opinion that unless the flow of the river is maintained at a reasonable level, no other effort is going to be successful,” said the report.