Uneasy flows the Ganga


Holy River: The beauty of the Ganges can be deceptive. It hides a deep malice and  is dying a slow death.

Believed to have the power to wash the sins of mortals, the sacred Ganga today is fighting a grim battle for survival itself. Environmentalists in Varanasi are not worried about the pollution in Ganga, they are worried about the possibility of its extinction.

“Pollution in Ganga has now become one of the aspects...the vital question is — whether Ganga will remain,” says eminent environmentalist and coordinator of centre for environmental science and technology, Banaras Hindu University Prof BD Tripathi.

Prof Tripathi has conducted extensive researches on pollution in the Ganges in Varanasi.

“We must now think of conservation of Ganga...there is no use thinking about removing pollution alone,” he says.

Prof Tripathi blames faulty planning for the failures to clean the river. “Despite spending crores of rupees on the much touted Ganga Action Plan, the river continues to be highly polluted... in fact it has worsened,” he opines.

The treatment plants have been rendered useless as they were meant to treat the sewage and not the toxic industrial waste, which is mixed with it. He points out that the treated water, which still contains highly toxic metals, is being used to irrigate crops, which in turn threatens human health. According to Prof Tripathi, the biggest problem facing the river is the shortage of water. “The river bed has shrunk and the flow of water in the Ganga has decreased considerably resulting in ecological problems,” he said. “It is said that dilution is the solution of pollution... now owing to less water, there is no dilution of the pollutants,” he points out.

He claims that 300 MLD seage is generated in Varanasi which includes 75 MLD industrial effluents. “On paper roughly 112 MLD sewage is treated though the plants do not work owing to power shortage,” Prof Tripathi explains. He conducted a scientific survey of Ganga in Varanasi in a 10 kilometre stretch from Assi ghat to Raj ghat and found the concentration of sulphur dioxide was 135-155 micro gram per cubic meter and nitrogen dioxide was 145-165 micro gram per cubic meter in the river atmosphere, which was much above the permissible limit.

“These gases, when they reach the human lung through breathing, form sulphuric and nitric acids, which are highly toxic,” he said. Similarly concentration of Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) and RSPM were recorded as 630 micro grams per cubic meter and 345 micro grams per cubic meter respectively, which were also beyond the permissible limit of 200 micro grams per cubic meter and 100 micro grams per cubic meter.

RSPM is more dangerous in comparison to SPM because these particulates easily reach the human lung and chock the alveoli.

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