Governments promise to keep the Ganga clean, but do they mean it?
| Wednesday | 15th February, 2017
As Uttar Pradesh gets down to the business of electing its next government, one of the questions that continues to occupy the collective mind-space has been that of cleaning the Ganga. The Central government has been doing its bit to keep the issue alive through its emphasis on sanitation. But are the official agencies, pollution regulators and political parties walking their talk?
Lucknow, February 14, 2017: As Uttar Pradesh gets down to the business of electing its next government, one of the questions that continues to occupy the collective mind-space has been that of cleaning the Ganga. The Central government has been doing its bit to keep the issue alive through its emphasis on sanitation. But are the official agencies, pollution regulators and political parties walking their talk?
“Apparently not. While the intention is clear and commendable, the ways and means being adapted for reaching the goal seem suspect,” says Suresh Rohilla, programme director, water management, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). Rohilla was addressing a media briefing organised here today by CSE, on the ‘Challenges and concerns of septage management in the National Mission for Clean Ganga’.
Debunking the myth that toilets would be the panacea for all sanitation-linked evils -- including the practice of open defecation -- CSE experts pointed out that building toilets will not stop people from defecating in the open. Simply building more toilets will not improve sanitation in the Ganga basin. The entire purpose behind Namami Gange will stand defeated because 180 million litres of faecal sludge will find their way into the Ganga from the 30 million septic tanks and pits that the Swachh Bharat Mission is promising to create in this region.
Every day, over 6,000 million litres of wastewater flows into the Ganga from 138 drains. Once the 118 towns and settlements along the river achieve open defecation-free status, they will generate and deposit a humungous additional pollution load into the river.
The government has instituted the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) as the only programme that requires cities to submit a sewage and septage management plan. But AMRUT fails on two counts: it is restricted to Class 1 cities, and it monitors urban local bodies’ performance based only on their sewerage coverage. This discourages authorities to prepare septage management plans. Very few cities along the Ganga treat their faecal sludge, and that too in miniscule amounts.
Simply putting in place technologies to clean the river, or building sewage treatment plants (STPs) will not work either – says CSE. “It is too expensive to build an STP and a sewerage network in every city. Running such plants is also not affordable,” says Rohilla.
There is enough evidence to show that faecal sludge and septage management (FSSM) is not only economical compared to a centralised sewerage system, but can also be implemented quickly to make cities clean and healthy. An International Water Management Institute (IWMI) study of 2,367 cities along the Ganga says FSSM in these cities will cost about Rs 18,900 crore, while the cost of laying sewerage networks and STPs will come to a whopping Rs 117,400 crore. “The future lies in septage,” says Rohilla.
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