Even as the government continues to receive flak from the Supreme Court on the 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 and on 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. This is despite the government spending over Rs 2,000 crores in the last decade under different projects for cleaning the rivers. The failure has also caught the attention of the Supreme Court, which has sought explanation from the government.
With the failures notwithstanding, 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 milli litre 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 kms) that is polluted in terms of BOD load, the others are Tapi, Narmada, Indus, Mahi and Sabarmati.
CPCB's 10 years of data show that 14 per cent of the entire riverine length in the country (6,086 kms) 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 the longest river length with a high BOD level followed by Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and then Gujarat. About 1.35 lakh pollution industries are the cause of generation of 13,000 million litres of wastewater that flows in these rivers every day.
The Commission is, however, willing to fund the cleaning of rivers for sustainable development but wants more private participation in the work. "The industry should come forward in the endeavor," the paper says.