Another bend in the Ganga

Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

THERE will be few who will disagree with the Supreme Court judgement that over Rs 420 crore have been washed away in the first phase of the Ganga Action Plan (GAP) Without any significant results. This left little optimism about how the Rs 350 crore marked for the second phase of the GAP, which was aimed largely at the major tributaries of the Gariga, would be spent - till the Supreme Court bench, headed by justice Kuldip Singh, froze GAP's account.

The judgement comes in the wake of affidavits filed by the environmental lawyer M C Mehta, saying that the results achieved by the Ganga Project Directorate were negligible compared to the investments. Earlier, the Supreme Court had asked the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERi) to make an assessment of the first phase. NEEW reported that many of the waste treatment systems covered under the first phase have either not been constructed as yet or have not been commissioned, and many treatment facilities that have been officially completed are simply not functional.

The Court's ruling also raises the fundamental issue cd how pablic money is spent. The Ganga, or for that matter amw river, can never be cleaned up by merely installing sonie sewage treatment plants. The problem of river pollution is a direct fallout of the lopsided urban and industrial planning which leads to sprawling monstrosities in a river's catchmem area. Indian cities and industries have failed to integrat environmental concerns into their growth plans; as a resuk. urban centres continuously increase the burden on the natural surroundings.

This means that the fiascos like GAP will repeat themseh" until responsible environmental nianagement becomes a Pon of urban planning and administration. It is, for instance, unrealistic to think that the government can first take water ftain the river, subsidise it to enable the rich consumers to squander it, then subsidise sewage treatment as well. This just does nog make either environmental or economic sense. Unless this a understood, court judgments like this one, apt as they may becan hardly redress the damage.

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