Healthy rivers are crucial
This will require innovative sewage treatment and tough enforcement of pollution norms
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