Even as the government continues to receive flak from Supreme Court on high level of pollution in Yamuna and Ganga, the final approach paper of the Planning Commission has embarked upon an ambitious plan to clean all rivers to bathing quality and developing river front tourism spots.
The Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and Coliform level in many stretches of river Yamuna (especially in Delhi) and Ganga is much more than the standard prescribed by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), thus making the water unsuitable for bathing quality. This is despite the government spending over Rs 2,000 crores in the last decade under different projects for cleaning these rivers.
With the failures not withstanding, the commission wants the Environment and Forest ministry to improve the water quality in all the major rivers of the country to that of the bathing quality. For that, the level of total Coliforms in 100 millilitre water should be brought down to 500 or less, pH should to between 6.5 and 8.5 and dissolved oxygen 5 mg per litre or more and BOD three mg per litre or less.
While Ganga has one of the longest stretch (1,760 km) that is polluted in terms of BOD load, the others are Tapi, Narmada, Indus, Mahi and Sabarmati. CPCB's 10 years of data shows that 14 per cent of the entire riverine length in the country (6,086 km) is severely polluted with BOD level with more than 6 mg per litre. About 19 per cent is moderately polluted whereas 67 per cent rivers are relatively clean. Maharashtra has longest river length with high BOD level followed by Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and then Gujarat. About 1.35 lakh pollution industries are cause for generation of 13,000 million litres of wastewater that flows in these rivers every day.
The Commission is, however, willing to fund cleaning of rivers for sustainable development but wants more private participation in the work. "There is a need to augment 850 water quality monitoring stations. No untreated waste water should be discharged into rivers by end of the 11th five-year plan," the paper says.
The paper also lays emphasis on improvement in solid waste management, preservation of wildlife and bio-diversity and mitigating land degradation through green cover. A special emphasis has been given on improving green cover as recent surveys have recoded a 6.3 per cent fall in dense forest cover. The paper recommends more involvement of Panchayati Raj Institutions in improving green cover through agro-forestry measures.