Gaping gap

Official apathy results in the failure of GAP in West Bengal

Published: Saturday 15 September 2001

the Ganga Action Plan (gap) has proved to be a failure in West Bengal, with the river's pollution levels increasing drastically in the Kolkata metropolitan areas (kma), despite Rs 158 crores spent in 15 years. This and many other startling revelations are part of a recent audit report from the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (cag). "Testing indicates that as of March 2000 the water quality has declined much below the levels which prevailed when the cleaning programme was started," states the cag report. According to it, execution of gap in kma is marred with heedless decisions. Sewage treatment schemes were prepared on the basis of the area's population instead of the actual quantity of sewage being dumped in the river. As a result, eight towns generating 34.33 million litres of sewage per day (mld) were left out. There were glaring irregularities even in the estimation of sewage generation -- only 23 per cent of the actual generation was taken into consideration. Moreover, indiscreet priority was given to towns while implementing the plan. The priority was decided on the basis of water quality data downstream of the towns, thereby, completely disregarding the concentration of sewage. As a result smaller towns with lesser pollution were given priority over larger towns that contribute maximum to the problem. Along with mismanagement, financial inconsistencies have also come in the way of the plan's effective implementation in the state, the report notes. An example of this is the mechanical dredging undertaken to remove the silt. Despite the silt removed being the contractor's property, he was paid Rs 61.01 lakhs for transporting and dumping it.

However, officials deny the incidences of any such irregularities. " gap is in a very good shape in the state," said Prabh Das, chief executive officer of the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (kdma). When questioned by Down to Earth about his response to the cag report, Das refused to comment saying that the reply had been sent to cag . But the report states that no such reply was received. Even a senior official of the state pollution control board admits that most of the problems associated with gap are arising from the kma areas administered by kdma .

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