A Gangetic blunder

 
By Max Martin
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

Even as Kanpur's administrators gear up for the delayed Phase-II of the Ganga Action Plan (GAP), work left over from Phase-I has stirred up an agitation. On World Environment day, June 6, environmentalists protested at Bhairoghat, the city's main point of water collection. They made their ire felt against an open drain carrying domestic waste -- situated on a bypass canal of the Ganga -- which opened up a few metres upstream from Bhairoghat. The Uttar Pradesh (UP) Jal Nigam officials have tried plugging the canal with polythene sandbags and diverted the waste water to a dirtpool across the canal through six pipelines, but some of the pipes leak. Worse still, there is the possibility of a backflow from the dirtpool downstream.

The microbial content of the water at Bhairoghat has crossed the permissible limits by a phenomenal degree. The maximum permissible levels is less than 5,000 units per 100 millilitre (ml), but sample tests have shown levels as high as 2,400,000 per 100 ml. The officials, however, point out that this figure could be misleading because such a high count was recorded on a day when the discharge pump of the drain was not functioning owing to a power outage, leading to the flow of wastewater directly into the canal. But it is also a fact that Kanpur endures long power cuts almost every day.

The Bhairoghat pumping station was established during British rule when the Ganges flowed at that point. The river has since changed its course and a bypass canal now feeds water to the pumping station. Says a local resident: "Flow in the canal is inadequate, necessitating dredging." Rakesh Jaiswal of a local environmental group, Ecofriends, alleges that septic waste from the local tuberculosis hospital also finds its way into the drain, adding to the microbe count. Officials of the Ganga Pollution Control Cell (gpcc), however, deny the allegation, "The hospital has set up a septic tank to dispose off its waste and so there is no question of it reaching the drain." Meanwhile, Ecofriends has contested GAP's claims of capping and treating the major drains. gpcc's Khare says in defense: "So much has been done and a lot more needs to be done. It is like the glass which is half-full, or half-empty."

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