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Stop dumping of ‘ritualistic material’ into Ganga to keep river clean: NEERI

LiveMint logoLiveMint 23-08-2017 Mayank Aggarwal

New Delhi: People must be stopped from dumping “ritualistic material” into the Ganga, considered a holy river by millions of Indians, says a study by a central government institute.

The study by reseachers at the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) has called for restrictions on cremation-related activity, disposal of dumps and immersion of Hindu idols, garlands and flowers in the river.

The study also held that a large number of “medicinal herbs growing in sub-alpine and alpine region near Gomukh (the origin of the Ganga), Chidbasa, Gangotri and adjoining areas (of the Himalayas) must be protected” to protect the “medicinal water quality” of the river.

It called for changing pesticides-based farming along a 540-km stretch in Uttar Pradesh to organic farming. The study is a preliminary attempt to understand the anti-microbial characteristics of river Ganga. It said the “disposal of ritualistic material must be prevented from entering” the river Ganga to keep it clean.

The study said that although the Ganga finds its own way to survive despite unrelenting disposal of waste, immediate attention was needed to protect it and its special properties.

The study, ‘Assessment of water quality and sediment to understand the special properties of River Ganga’, was conducted after the Union minister for water resources, river development and Ganga rejuvenation Uma Bharati last year said that NEERI will conduct a study to evaluate the medicinal values, if any, of the Ganga.

The NEERI study was submitted to the National Mission for Clean Ganga, the nodal authority for the Ganga’s protection and conservation, a few months ago but is yet to be made public.

The study also stressed the need for decentralized sewage treatment plants (STPs), individual household latrines (IHHLs) with proper excreta management in villages along the river, adoption of stringent measures like Zero Liquid Discharge by industries, and ensuring minimum environment flow (e-flow) in rivers.

It also called for strict monitoring of wastewater from major multi-speciality hospitals, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries situated in Kanpur, Bhagalpur, Allahabad and Varanasi and suggested mitigation measures as per the latest bio-medical waste management rules 2016.

It noted that farming is common along the river bank from Harsil (Uttarakhand) to Gangasagar (West Bengal) but that the use of “pesticides in agriculture in the surrounding areas increases rapidly as the river flow through the plains”.

“Converting from pesticide-based agriculture to organic farming must be initially considered in the stretch between Narora and Allahabad due to extensive farming activities and reduced flow in river,” the study said.

The Ganga, which originates in the Himalayas in Uttarakhand, flows for 2,525 km passing through five Indian states – Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal – before discharging into Bay of Bengal. The Ganga basin covers 26% of the country.

Cleaning up the Ganga has been a priority project for Indian governments for nearly three decades but despite spending thousands of crores of rupees the mission has failed.

In a scathing judgement, the National Green Tribunal in July 2017 noted that “even after spending Rs7,304.64 crore up to March 2017 by the central government, state government and local authorities of the state of UP” the status of the Ganga has “not improved in terms of quality or otherwise and it continues to be a serious environmental issue”.

NGT in a 543-page judgment had also banned all construction within 100 metres of the river’s edge from Haridwar in Uttarakhand to Unnao in Uttar Pradesh.

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