Plan the spend

The degradation of the major rivers in the country into cesspools of filth and repositories of human and industrial waste in the past few decades is a fact of life.

The Ganga, the Yamuna, the Brahmaputra and the rivers in other parts of the country have all turned from life-sustaining bounties of nature into sources of serious threats to human and animal life. In many places the rivers have also physically shrunk because of erosion, encroachment and other reasons. But the main problem is pollution caused by reckless industrialisation on the banks and the dumping of waste from urban centres along the course of the river. Many rivers which had high economic value because of the transport and fishing facilities they provided are now drains and they adversely affect the health and economic life of the people living near them.

A recent study has found that the incidence of cancer is much more than normal among those who live near the Ganga, which is the country’s most polluted river. It is also the most important river in the country as about 40 per cent of the population depends on it in some way or other. Therefore the effect of its degradation on public health can well be imagined. The study found that  cases of gall bladder cancer among those who live near the river are the second highest in the world and those of prostate cancer are the highest in the country. This is because of the unchecked discharge of toxic industrial effluents and municipal waste into the river. Successive Ganga action plans have not worked and thousands of crores of rupees have gone down the drain. A new Mission Clean Ganga has been approved by the Ganga River Basin Authority with an investment plan of Rs 15,000 crore over the next 10 years. Whether the money will be well utilised is anybody’s guess.

It is not just the Ganga but other rivers also need serious rejuvenation efforts. If such efforts are undertaken with sincerity they can produce telling results. The revival of the Thames in London and the  Cheonggyecheon in South Korea are impressive examples. The participation of the local community in the official efforts is the most important requisite for the success of any revival plan, along with clear and realistic methods, efficient implementation and strict monitoring of the use of funds. The Ganga plans and other river revival plans had failed on all these fronts. 

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