Healthy rivers are cru­cial

This will re­quire in­no­va­tive sewage treat­ment and tough en­force­ment of pol­lu­tion norms

Down to Earth - - COVER STORY - SU­NITA NARAIN

THE BJP-LED govern­ment has said it is se­ri­ous about clean­ing the Ganga. It must know that ev­ery river in In­dia is like the Ganga. Ev­ery river is ei­ther dy­ing or al­ready dead. This is be­cause cities take wa­ter from them and re­turn sewage, and in­dus­tries dis­charge ef­flu­ents into them.

The river-clean­ing model has as yet de­pended on build­ing sewage treat­ment plants. This strat­egy is in­ad­e­quate. Nearly 84 per cent of Varanasi city is with­out the sewage net­work.So is 71 per cent of Al­la­habad. En­gi­neers will tell the govern­ment that they will build the net­work. This is a pipe dream. Even as they deal with the back­log, there is more that needs to be built or re­paired. Cities do not even have funds to run sewage treat­ment plants.All in all, the game of catch-up does not work. Change is pos­si­ble with the fol­low­ing strat­egy:

1. Make eco­log­i­cal flow manda­tory in all stretches of the river.In up­per stretches, where the re­quire­ment is for crit­i­cal eco­log­i­cal func­tions as well as so­ci­etal needs, it should be man­dated at 50 per cent for the lean sea­son and 30 per cent for other sea­sons.In ur­banised stretches, it will be man­dated based on the quan­tum of waste­water re­leased into the river and cal­cu­lated us­ing a fac­tor of 10 for di­lu­tion.

2.Ac­cept that ur­ban ar­eas can­not build con­ven­tional sewage net­works at a re­quired pace. So in­ter­cept sewage in open drains and take it to treat­ment plants. En­sure that all new de­vel­op­ments treat sewage lo­cally us­ing de­cen­tralised sys­tems.

3. En­sure treated ef­flu­ent is reused or dis­charged di­rectly into rivers for di­lu­tion.

4. Go for af­ford­able wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion so­lu­tions. To­day, the Cen­tre pro­vides sub­sidy for build­ing and run­ning sewage treat­ment plants. Cities do not pro­vide wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion for all.They get ex­pen­sive wa­ter from far­ther away, los­ing some of it in dis­tri­bu­tion. This is not prac­ti­cal. Cities must re­duce wa­ter use, pay for wa­ter and in­vest in sewage treat­ment that is af­ford­able. Cen­tral funds must sub­sidise only those sys­tems that pro­vide for all, not some. 5. De­sign a garbage dis­posal sys­tem to seg­re­gate waste and make a re­source out of it.

6. Learn that con­trol­ling in­dus­trial pol­lu­tion de­mands ef­fec­tive en­force­ment of laws and ap­pro­pri­ate tech­nolo­gies for small-scale in­dus­tries. The Cen­tral Pol­lu­tion Con­trol Board es­ti­mates 500 mil­lion litres of in­dus­trial dis­charge flows into the Ganga ev­ery day. Crack­down on non-com­pli­ance and in­cen­tivise pol­lu­tion­con­trol tech­nolo­gies.

7. Recog­nise lack of san­i­ta­tion is a na­tional shame. Im­ple­ment the cur­rent pro­gramme with ob­ses­sion. Make this the na­tional mis­sion that counts.

Ru­ral san­i­ta­tion needs ob­ses­sion for de­liv­ery.

San­i­ta­tion pro­gramme must link toi­lets to wa­ter and sewage

dis­posal

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