Ganga Prom­ise: Walk the Ghats, but Don’t Take Dip

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics - Times­

Varanasi: Clean Ganga may not be the top po­lit­i­cal is­sue in Varanasi this elec­tion, but it surely is a prom­ise strong enough to find res­o­nance in con­ver­sa­tions of a med­i­ta­tive city that sud­denly has to cope with con­struc­tion ac­tiv­ity round ev­ery sec­ond bend.

The dusts of change that fill the air set­tle down in the open­ings to the 84-odd famed ghats of the city, which ex­em­plify this change best. You can hope to walk seam­lessly from one ghat to an­other with­out shroud­ing your­self in dust or other waste. Mod­ern stain­less steel dust­bins dot these paths and garbage seems to be go­ing right where it should. There are still some patches with stand­ing urine or cat­tle dung, but mostly the ghats have been trans­formed into walk­a­ble pub­lic spa­ces with clean seat­ing over­look­ing the holy river.

Not many would have be­lieved this pos­si­ble till May 2014, when Varanasi elected Naren­dra Modi as its Lok Sabha rep­re­sen­ta­tive. In keep­ing with the prime min­is­ter’s elec­tion prom­ise, ghat clean­li­ness is clearly in mis­sion mode, with the Varanasi mu­nic­i­pal cor­po­ra­tion and the Cen­tre’s Na­tional Mis­sion on Clean Ganga (NMCG) work­ing in tan­dem.

This change, how­ever, stops short of the holy river. The Na­mami Gange pro­ject to cleanse the Ganga of se­vere pol­lu­tion is yet to make an im­pact. The pol­lu­tion lev­els in the river stay un­changed mainly be­cause fae­cal co­l­iform lev­els are still as high as ever Trash skim­mers were with­drawn in two months as the ar­range­ment proved fi­nan­cially un­sus­tain­able; 8 boats help clean wa­ter sur­face near Ra­jen­dra Prasad Ghat — 70 times higher than CPCB’s per­mis­si­ble out­door bathing limit. At Varuna Con­flu­ence, the fig­ure was a stag­ger­ing 3,10,00,000 per 100 ml.

There are 50,000-60,000 daily bathers in the Ganga in Varanasi, and many feel a stink that they ig­nore, hop­ing faith will give them pro­tec­tion. As per the NMCG web­site, the gov­ern­ment has de­ployed trash skim­mers – ma­chines that col­lect float­ing de­bris off the river sur­face – in Varanasi. But you won’t find one. Varanasi’s mu­nic­i­pal com­mis­sioner Shri­hari Pratap Shahi told ET that trash skim­mers were with­drawn within two months as the ar­range­ment proved un­sus­tain­able. “Now we ply eight boats which help clean wa­ter sur­face,” he said. NMCG on its web­site also claims to have sanc­tioned three cre­ma­to­ria in the city, but they are yet to come up. The sole elec­tric cre- The Na­tional Mis­sion on Clean Ganga on its web­site claims to have sanc­tioned three cre­ma­to­ria, but they are yet to come up The sole elec­tric cre­ma­to­rium at Har­ishchan­dra Ghat op­er­ates if and when any­one does agree to choose it over the tra­di­tional pyre Ex­perts blame the lack of progress on fre­quent lead­er­ship changes at the NMCG and the lack of co­or­di­na­tion among au­thor­i­ties

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