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Water conservationist Rajendra Singh has said that the plan to start building 16 barrages on Ganga River between Haldia and Allahabad from October, should be put on hold till a proper evaluation of the impact of Farakka barrage on the free flow, bio-diversity and pollution defying capacity of the Ganga is completed.
Speaking at a day-long seminar on the topic Bihar and Ganga on Sunday at Gandhi Sangrahalaya, Singh said the move would be disastrous for Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and a vast majority of its people.
"It is time to intervene and inform the centre on the possible scientific, engineering, socio-economic and cultural impact of rushing through the move," he said.
Maintaining, that he was not against development, Singh said his experience favoured 'development with restoration'.
"The backdrop of the debilitating impact of Farakka barrage alone on the bio-diversity and free flow of Ganga and the resultant large scale erosion, floods and displacement of people in Bihar was signal enough for exercising caution," he said.
Agreeing with legislative council member Kedar Pandey's open insinuation that the Ganga Abhiyan and move to start ferry service was being conceived to benefit corporate houses and not the common man, Singh said, dredging of the river bed can facilitate the movement of 100 tonne capacity ships.
"But the government intends to ferry ships with 450 tonne freight capacity," he said, adding "The Rs 4,600 crore detailed project report (DPR) was readied in only a week's time."
Singh said the intention to run double-decker ships was also a giveaway as it would require barrages, at least 10 metre high, instead of 5metres as was being proposed.
"In Bihar plains, a 1 metre high barrage would have an impact on several miles of the river. The low contour difference in Bihar plains practically rules out the feasibility of building barrages," he said agreeing to the point raised by Prof RK Sinha, also kown as the dolphin man.
The participants agreed to Singh's suggestion to build opinion for a river policy to ensure that river land could not be reclaimed for real estate and industrial use.
"Pressure should also be mounted for the passage of Water Security Act to ensure community right on water, river and sewerage water separation, treatment of city waste water for industrial and irrigation use and ensuring at least 51% ecological flow of Ganga," he said.
Majority of the speakers including Ram Bihar Singh, convenor Bihar Kisan Sangathan (BKS), Prof Vijay Kumar of Bhagalpur University, Prof Wasi Ahmad, a specialist on Ganga River, PK Singh, engineer, Prof RK Sinha and Kedar Pandey, shared their perspectives on the inherent dangers of the move and the necessity to maintain the free flow of Ganga River so that the flow originating from its source could also pass through the states of Bihar and UP.
While the convenor of BKS said the project should start only after soliciting the opinion of the people living in Ganga basin, Prof Kumar said, instead of taking up new measures for inter-linking of rivers, the natural inter-linking of rivers of Bihar and Jharkhand regions should be revived.
Prof Ahmad said free flow of rivers into the ocean should not be fiddled with, or else, it would lead to increase in salinity and impact the life cycle in oceans and rivers.
Prof Sinha said the best solution for pollution was dilution and castigated the IIT consortium for not doing anything original for maintaining the continuity and cleanliness of Ganga.