Ganga is the most sacred river in the world. For Indians Ganga river water is
pious as Amrit.
The life of the people living around river ganga is considered to be blessed by
This moksha dayini has been beloved to many in this world.
The Ganga, the most sacred and worshipped river of the Hindus, is now one of the
most polluted rivers of the country. Twenty-five big cities located along its
bank generated 1,340 mid sewage over 95 per cent of the same entered the river
without being treated prior to the Ganga Action Plan (GAP). Out of the total
length of the river (2,525 km) for Gangotri to Gangasagar about 600 km long
stretch is highly polluted.
What Caused This Pollution?
This pollution is due to the dumping of city garbage, industrial effluents,
human and animal excreta, agricultural wastes, pesticides, burning of human
bodies, community bathing and faulty social and religious practices. According
to an estimate about 19,659 tons of polluted matters enter the river every year
of which 55.4 per cent is contributed by Uttar Pradesh and 18.8 per cent by West
Bengal (Lakshmi & Srivastava, Vijyart, Jan-March 1986).
According to a study of the Central Board for Preservation and Control of Water
Pollution the long stretches of the Ganga near Kanpur and Varanasi are
unsuitable for any beneficial human use. The water quality is generally good
(‘B’ type) up to Bithoor, except near the city of Kannauj where polluted water
from the Kali river and city sewage combine to exceed the assimilation capacity
of the river.
How Can We Eradicate This Problem. Are There Any Examples To It?
There has been a steady deterioration in the quality of water of Indian rivers
over several decades. India’s fourteen major, 55 minor and several hundred small
rivers receive millions of litres of sewage, industrial and agricultural wastes.
Most of these rivers have been rendered to the level of sewage flowing drains.
There are serious water quality problems in the cities, towns and villages using
these waters. Water borne diseases are rampant, fisheries are on decline, and
even cattle are not spared from the onslaught of pollution.
According to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) five rivers in Asia serving over
870 million people are among the most threatened in the world, as dams, water
extraction and climate change all take their toll.
The Ganges, Indus, Yangtze, Salween-Nu and Mekong-Lancang rivers make up half of
the WWF’s “top ten” most threatened river basins.
India has a large number of rivers that are lifelines for the millions living
along their banks.
These rivers can be categorized into four groups:
1.Rivers that flow down from the Himalayas and are supplied by melting snow and
glaciers. This is why these are perennial, that is, they never dry up during the
2. The Deccan Plateau Rivers, which depend on rainfall for their water.
3. The coastal rivers, especially those on the west coast, which are short and
do not retain water throughout the year.
4. The rivers in the inland drainage basin of west Rajasthan, which depend on
the rains. These rivers normally drain towards silt lakes or flow into the sand.
River Ganga (Ganges) of India has been held in high esteem since time immemorial
and Hindus from all over the world cherish the idea of a holy dip in the river
under the faith that by doing so they will get rid of their sins of life. More
than 400 million people live along the Ganges River. An estimated 2,000,000
persons ritually bathe daily in the river. Historically also, Ganga is the most
important river of the country and beyond doubt is closely connected with the
history of civilization as can be noticed from the location of the ancient
cities of Hardwar, Prayag, Kashi and Patliputra at its bank. To millions of
people it is sustainer of life through multitude of canal system and irrigation
of the wasting load.
Hundreds of the villages and even the big cities depend for
their drinking water on this river. It is believed, a fact which has also been
observed, that the water of Ganga never decays even for months and years when
water of other rivers and agencies begins to develop bacteria and fungi within a
couple of days. This self purification characteristic of Ganga is the key to the
holiness and sanctity of its water. The combination of bacteriophages and large
populations of people bathing in the river have apparently produced a
self-purification effect, in which water-borne bacteria such as dysentery and
cholera are killed off, preventing large-scale epidemics. The river also has an
unusual ability to retain dissolved oxygen.
With growing civilization and population all over how long Ganga will retain its
self purification characteristics only time can judge.
The Gangotri Glacier, a vast expanse of ice five miles by fifteen, at the
foothills of the Himalayas (14000 ft) in North Uttar Pradesh is the source of
Bhagirathi, which joins with Alaknanda (origins nearby) to form Ganga at the
craggy canyon-carved town of Devprayag. Interestingly, the sources of Indus and
the Brahmaputra are also geographically fairly close; the former goes through
Himachal Pradesh and fans out through Punjab and Sind (Pakistan) into the
The latter courses for most of its tremendous length under various
names through Tibet/China, never far from the Nepal or Indian borders, and then
takes a sharp turn near the northeastern tip of India, gathers momentum through
Assam before joining the major stream of the Ganga near Dacca in Bangladesh to
become the mighty Padma, river of joy and sorrow for much of Bangladesh. From
Devprayag to the Bay of Bengal and the vast Sunderbans delta, the Ganga flows
some 1550 miles, passing (and giving life to) some of the most populous cities
of India, including Kanpur (2 million), Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, and Calcutta
The largest tributary to the Ganga is the Ghaghara, which meets it before Patna,
in Bihar, bearing much of the Himalayan glacier melt from Northern Nepal. The
Gandak, which comes from near Katmandu, is another big Himalayan tributary.
Other important rivers that merge with the Ganga are the Son, which originates
in the hills of Madhya Pradesh, the Gomti which flows past Lucknow.
Any Earlier Work?
A number of investigations have been carried out on the physiochemical and
biological characters of the Ganga. Lakshminarayana (1965) published a series of
papers reporting the results of studies carried out at Varanasi during the
period between March, 1957 and March, 1958. it was observed by him that the
values of the most of the parameters decreased during rainy season while no
marked variation was observed during winters and summers.
In the same year Chakraborty et.al. (1965) from Kanpur reported the water
quality of Ganga at J.K. Rayon’s water intake point and at Golaghat and
Bhairoghat pumping stations situated at the upstream of the river. It was
concluded that the water quality gradually deteriorated as it passes from
Bhairoghat pumping station to the J.K. Rayon water intake point in summers
because in this stretch the river received waste waters from number of sewage
A year later Saxena et.al. (1966) made a systematic survey of the chemical
quantity of Ganga at Kanpur. According to the study, the biological oxygen
demand, i.e. B.O.D. varied from 5.3ppm (minimum) in winter to 16.0ppm (maximum)
in summer. The chloride ranged between 9.2 and 12.7 ppm and the river was found
to be alkaline in nature except in rainy season. He concluded that the tanneries
significantly increased the pollution load of river as they discharge huge
amounts of effluents containing organic wastes and heavy metals. It was further
reported that forty five tanneries, ten textile mills and several other
industrial units discharged 37.15 million gallon per day of waste water
generating BOD load of approximately 61630 Kg/day.
Subsequently Agarwal et.al. (1976) studied the bacteriological population of the
river water and concluded that addition of untreated waste and sewage was
responsible for the presence of pathogenic organisms posing threat to the
residents of the Varanasi city.
Hydrobiological features of the river Ganga was studied by Pahwa and Mehrotra
(1966). The authors studied a stretch of 1090 kms. of river Ganga extending from
Kanpur in west to Rajmahal, in Jharkhand state, in the east. They reported that
the turbidity was maximum (1100-2170 ppm) in monsoon and minimum ( less than100
ppm) during January to June. The pH of the river water ranged between 7.45
(minimum) during June to August and 8.30 (maximum) during January to May. The
dissolved oxygen, i.e. D.O. count ranged from 5.0 to 10.5 ppm with maximum
values during January and February. While the minimum values were recorded in
Bhargava (1982) in a survey of total length of the river Ganga found that
quality index was far above the prescribed limit at Kanpur. He further found
that the Ganga water was having unusually fast regenerating capacity by bringing
down B.O.D. owing to the presence of large amount of well adopted
micro-organisms. According to the research Ganga is rich in polymers excreted by
various species of bacteria. These polymers being excellent coagulants remove
turbidity by coagulation, setting the suspended particles at the sewage
At the 1981 session of Indian Science Congress at Varanasi, scientists expressed
concern at the growing pollution in the river Ganga in presence of the then
Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi who inaugurated the session. At her instance,
Dr. M.S. Swaminathan, the then member, Planning Commission asked the Central
Board for Preventation and Control of Water Pollution, New Delhi to conduct
studies on the state of the river Ganga. In collaboration with the State
Pollution Control Boards of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Bengal and the centre for
study of Man and Environment Kolkata (Calcutta), studies were conducted on the
’ of pollution including all human activities, land use pattern and
water quality of the river at selected sites during 1981-82 and report entitled
“Basin, sub-basin inventory of water pollution in the Ganga basin part-II” was
published in 1984. according to this report sewage of 27 class I cities and
towns and effluents from 137 major industries were the main source of pollution
of the river. In addition cremation of dead human bodies and dumping of
carcasses aggrevated the pollution of the river.
It was Chandra (1981) who conducted studies on the pollution status of river
Ganga at Allahabad, pointed out that industries manufacturing nitrogenous
fertilizers have significant role in polluting the river water.
Study carried out in 1986-87 on physico-chemical properties of river Ganga water
at Buxar (Unnao) clearly revealed that extent of pollution varied in different
seasons. Usually all the 23 parameters studied showed high values in summer and
lower during monsoons except turbidity which was high in rainy season. Values of
BOD, COD, DO and H2S were recorded high than the tolerance limits.
Study on water quality of river Ganga at Kalakankar (Pratapgarh in Uttar
Pradesh) revealed that even at such a remote and undisturbed place like
Kalakankar the river water was not safe for drinking and bathing. It was also
noted that the river showed an alkaline trend throughout the course of study.
According to the research done by Mehrotra (1990), the various sources
responsible for pollution of the river in Varanasi city are domestic sewage
effluents of the industries, burning of dead bodies at the ghats, use of
detergents, insecticides and pesticides used in agriculture. Study revealed the
presence of toxic metals like mercury ( 65 to 520ppb), Lead( less than 10 to
800 ppm), chromium (less than 10 to 200 ppm) and nickel (less than 10 to 130 ppm)
in the sediments of Ganga river at Varanasi city.
Upstream from Varanasi, one of the major pilgrimage sites along the river, the
water is comparatively pure, having a low Biochemical oxygen demand and fecal
coliform count. Studies conducted in 1983 on water samples taken from the right
bank of the Ganga at Patna confirm that escheria coli (E.Coli.), fecal
streptococci and vibrio cholerae organisms die two to three times faster in the
Ganga than in water taken from the rivers Son and Gandak and from dug wells and
tube wells in the same area.
The chemical pollution of the river Ganga in Patna city in Bihar state has been
found somewhat alarming beside the storm drain, especially in the regions like
Rajapur, Mandiri and Krishnaghat.
According to the report published in a book by Mr. U.K. Sinha (1986), the
concentration of iron is higher in sediments collected from 10 metres along the
bank at Mandiri region. The concentration of all the toxic metals i.e copper,
zinc, nickel and cobalt are higher in all the sediments collected from near the
storm drain and diminishes towards mid-region of the river. The concentration of
zinc is highest in the sediments collected from near the Mandiri storm drain,
Antaghat storm drain and Krishnaghat storm drain.
The concentration of copper is highest in the sediments collected from near the
Krishnaghat storm drain suggesting the presence copper due to utensil work being
done in Thatheri Bazar and hospital wastes also, said report.
For some time now, this romantic view of the Ganges has collided with India’s
grim realities. During the past three decades, the country’s explosive growth
(at nearly 1.2 billion people, India’s population is second only to China’s),
industrialization and rapid urbanization have put unyielding pressure on the
Ganga, the most sacred of rivers for Hindus, has become polluted for some years
now. But a recent study by Uttarakhand Environment Conservation and Pollution
Control Board says that the level of pollution in the holy river has reached
Things have come to such a pass that the Ganga water is at present not fit just
for drinking and bathing but has become unusable even for agricultural purposes.
As per the UECPCB study, while the level of coliform present in water should be
below 50 for drinking purposes, less than 500 for bathing and below 5000 for
agricultural use-the present level of coliform in Ganga at Haridwar has reached
Based on the level of coliform, dissolved oxygen and biochemical oxygen, the
study put the water in A, B, C and D categories. While A category is considered
fit for drinking, B for bathing, C for agriculture and D is for excessive
Since the Ganga waters at Haridwar have more than 5000 coliform and even the
level of dissolved oxygen and biochemical oxygen doesn’t conform the prescribed
standards, it has been put in the D category.
According to the study, the main cause of high level of coliform in Ganga is due
to disposal of human faeces, urine and sewage directly into the river from its
starting point in Gaumukh till it reaches Haridwar via Rishikesh.
Nearly 89 million litres of sewage is daily disposed into Ganga from the 12
municipal towns that fall along its route till Haridwar. The amount of sewage
disposed into the river increases during the Char Dham Yatra season when nearly
15 lakh pilgrims visit the state between May and October each year.
Apart from sewage disposal of half-burnt human bodies at Haridwar and hazardous
medical waste from the base hospital at Srinagar due to absence of an
incinerator are also adding to pollution levels in the Ganga.
The result has been the gradual killing of one of India’s most treasured
resources. One stretch of the Yamuna River, the Ganges’ main tributary, has been
devoid of all aquatic creatures for at least a decade.
In Varanasi, India’s most sacred city, the coliform bacterial count is at least
3,000 times higher than the standard established as safe by the United Nations
world Health Organization. Coliform are rod-shaped bacteria that are normally
found in the colons of humans and animals and become a serious contaminant when
found in the food or water supply.
A study by Environmental Biology Laboratory, Department pf Zoology, Patna
University, showed the presence of mercury in the Ganga river in Varanasi city.
According to the study, annual mean concentration of mercury in the river water
was 0.00023 ppm. The concentration ranged from NT (not traceable) to 0.00191 ppm.
Study done by Indian Toxicological Research Centre (ITRC), Lucknow during
1986-1992 showed maximum annual concentration of mercury in the Ganga river
water at Rishikesh, Allahabad district and Dakshineswar as 0.081, 0.043 and
0.012 ppb respectively.
Ganga river at Varanasi was found well within the maximum permissible standard
of 0.001 ppm prescribed for drinking water by the World Health Organization.
The mercury studied in the Ganga river could be traced in biotic as well as
abiotic components of the river at the study site. The Hindu devotees take bath
in the river where mercury was detected in 28%, 44%,75%, 96%, 42% and 89% of the
river water, sediment, benthic fauna, fish, soil and vegetation samples
Though mercury contamination of the river water has not reached an alarming
extent, its presence in the river system is worrisome. In the study annual mean
concentration of the metal in the sediments was 0.067 ppm. Sediments constitute
a major pool of mercury in fresh water.
As Ganga enters the Varanasi city, Hinduism’s sacred river contains 60,000
faecal coliform bacteria per 100 millilitres, 120 times more than is considered
safe for bathing. Four miles downstream, with inputs from 24 gushing sewers and
60,000 pilgrim-bathers, the concentration is 3,000 times over the safety limit.
In places, the Ganges becomes black and septic. Corpses, of semi-cremated adults
or enshrouded babies, drift slowly by.
The tannery industry mushrooming in North India has converted the Ganga River
into a dumping ground.
The tanning industry discharges different types of waste
into the environment, primarily in the form of liquid effluents containing
organic matters, chromium, sulphide ammonium and other salts. As per an
estimate, about 80-90% of the tanneries use chromium as a tanning agent. Of
this, the hides take up only 50-70%, while the rest is discharged as effluent.
Pollution becomes acute when tanneries are concentrated in clusters in small
area like Kanpur. Consequently, the Leather-tanning sector is included in the
Red category of industries due to the potential adverse environmental impact
caused by tannery wastes.
Highly polluted sediments are adversely affecting the ecological functioning of
rivers due to heavy metal mobilization from urban areas into biosphere.
Distribution of heavy metals in sediments of the river Ganga and its tributaries
have been carried out by several workers. Monitoring of Ganga River from
Rishikesh to Varanasi indicated that Kannauj to Kanpur and Varanasi are the most
polluted stretches of the river Ganga . Analysis of upstream and down stream
water and sediment revealed a 10-fold increase in chromium level.
Solutions To It
Yes there are solutions after the augumentation of our Hon’ble PRIME Minister
Shri Narendra Modi under his supervision:-
National River Ganga Basin Authority (NRGBA)
NRGBA was established by the Central Government of India, on 20 February 2009
under Section 3 of the Environment Protection Act, 1986. It declared the Ganges
as the "National River" of India. The chair includes the Prime Minister of
India and chief ministers of states through which the Ganges flows. In 2011,
the World Bank approved $1 billion in funding for the National Ganges River
2010 Government clean-up campaign
In 2010, it was announced that "the Indian government has embarked on a $4
billion campaign to ensure that by 2020 no untreated municipal sewage or
industrial runoff enters the 1,560-mile river." A World Bank spokesman
described the plan in 2011, saying.
Earlier efforts to clean the Ganges concentrated on a few highly polluting towns
and centres and addressed 'end-of-the-pipe' wastewater treatment there; Mission
Clean Ganga builds on lessons from the past, and will look at the entire
Gangetic basin while planning and prioritising investment instead of the earlier
Lobby group Sankat Mochan Foundation (SMF) "is working with GO2 Water Inc.,
a Berkeley, California, wastewater-technology company" to design a new Sewage
treatment system for Varanasi.
The Supreme Court of India has been working on the closure and relocation of
many of the industrial plants like Tulsi along the Ganges. In 2010 the
government declared the stretch of river between Gaumukh and Uttarkashi an Eco-sensitive
Namami Gange Programme
In the budget tabled in Parliament on 10 July 2014, the Union Finance Minister Arun
Jaitley announced an integrated Ganges development project titled 'Namami Gange'
(meaning 'Obeisance to the Ganges river') and allocated ₹2,037 crore for this
purpose. The objectives were effective abatement of pollution, conservation, and
rejuvenation of the Ganges. Under the project, 8 states are covered. Dept of
Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation proposes to make 1,674 gram panchayats by
the Ganges open defecation-free by 2022, at a cost of Rs 1,700 cr (central
share). An estimated Rs 2,958 Crores (US$460 million) have been spent till July
2016 in various efforts in cleaning up of the river.
As a part of the program, government of India ordered the shut down of 48
industrial units around the Ganges.
The program has a budget outlay of Rs. 20,000 crore for the next five years.
This is a significant four-fold increase over the expenditure in the past 30
years (Government of India incurred an overall expenditure of approximately Rs.
4000 crore on this task since 1985). The centre will now take over 100% funding
of various activities/ projects under this program. Taking a leaf from the
unsatisfactory results of the earlier Ganges Action Plans, the centre now plans
to provide for operation and maintenance of the assets for a minimum 10-year
period, and adopt a PPP/SPV approach for pollution hotspots.
In an attempt to bolster enforcement the centre also plans to establish a
four-battalion Ganga Eco-Task Force. The program emphasises on improved
co-ordination mechanisms between various ministries/agencies of central and
state governments. Major infrastructure investments which fall under the
original mandate of other ministries viz. Urban Development (UD), Drinking Water
& Sanitation (DWS), Environment Forests & Climate Change (EF&CC) etc., will be
undertaken in addition.
'Namami Gange' will focus on pollution abatement interventions namely
interception, diversion and treatment of waste water flowing through the open
drains through bio-remediation / appropriate in-situ treatment / use of
innovative technologies / sewage treatment plants (STPs) / effluent treatment
plant (ETPs); rehabilitation and augmentation of existing STPs and immediate
short term measures for arresting pollution at exit points on river front to
prevent inflow of sewage etc.
Significantly the approach is underpinned by socio-economic benefits that the
program is expected to deliver in terms of job creation, improved livelihoods
and health benefits to the vast population that is dependent on the river.
The main pillars of Namami Gange Programme are:
1. Sewerage Treatment Infrastructure
2. River-Front Development
3. River-Surface Cleaning
6. Public Awareness
7. Industrial Effluent Monitoring
8. Ganga Gram
Its implementation has been divided into entry-level activities (for immediate
visible impact), medium-term activities (to be implemented within five years of
time frame) and long-term activities (to be implemented within ten years).
Ganga Manthan was a national conference held to discuss issues and possible
solutions for cleaning the river.
The conference aimed to take feedback from stakeholders and prepare a road map
for rejuvenating the Ganges. The event was organised by the National Mission for
Clean Ganga (NMCG)on 7 July 2014 at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi.
We must need to understand that we should not contaminate any such thing which
is the source of our survival or well being . even if Centrtal Government
introduces new Cabinet Ministry Ganga Jal Mantralaya but still we need to
understand rather projecting it that Peoples Needs To Change And Must Respect
Everything Helping For Their Survival Or Else One Day People Will Themselves
Will Destroy Themselves.
Written By: S. Vaishnavi
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