Ganga, the most sacred of rivers for Hindus, has become polluted for some years now. But a recent study by Uttarakhand Environment Conservation and Pollution Control Board says that the level of pollution in the holy river has reached alarming proportions.
Things have come to such a pass that the Ganga water is at present not fit just for drinking and bathing but has become unusable even for agricultural purposes.
As per the UECPCB study, while the level of coliform present in water should be below 50 for drinking purposes, less than 500 for bathing and below 5000 for agricultural use—the present level of coliform in Ganga at Haridwar has reached 5500.
Based on the level of coliform, dissolved oxygen and biochemical oxygen, the study put the water in A, B, C and D categories. While A category is considered fit for drinking, B for bathing, C for agriculture and D is for excessive pollution level.
Since the Ganga waters at Haridwar have more than 5000 coliform and even the level of dissolved oxygen and biochemical oxygen doesn't conform the prescribed standards, it has been put in the D category.
According to the study, the main cause of high level of coliform in Ganga is due to disposal of human faeces, urine and sewage directly into the river from its starting point in Gaumukh till it reaches Haridwar via Rishikesh.
Nearly 89 million litres of sewage is daily disposed into Ganga from the 12 municipal towns that fall along its route till Haridwar. The amount of sewage disposed into the river increases during the Char Dham Yatra season when nearly 15 lakh pilgrims visit the state between May and October each year.
According to the Ganga pollution control unit of Uttarakhand Peyjal Nigam, Haridwar alone accounts for 37.36 million litres of the sewage that goes directly to the Ganga without getting treated in any plant.
Apart from sewage disposal of half-burnt human bodies at Haridwar and hazardous medical waste from the base hospital at Srinagar due to absence of an incinerator are also adding to pollution levels in the Ganga.
It is worth mentioning that despite spending over Rs. 1500 crores by the Ganga Action Plan since its inception in 1984, the river still remains polluted. The second phase of the project, which is to get over in 2008 includes setting up of sewer lines in 8 cities in Garhwal that fall on the route of the river.
According to an estimate, during its 2510 kilometre-long course from Gaumukh till Bay of Bengal, nearly 1 billion litres of untreated sewage gets disposed into the river, which according to legend was brought down to earth by King Bhagirath.