The government of India has allegedly backtracked from its assurance to fund a Rs 53 crore innovative sewage treatment plant to clean up river Ganga, asking activists and scientists to scale down the plant from 37 MLD to 20MLD citing high costs.
This, despite the government having already spent a total of Rs 70 crore - Rs 30 crore to pump sewage and lay a pipeline from Nagwa nullah to Ramana village in Uttar Pradesh, and Rs 40 crore in acquiring land for the plant, says Veer Bhadra Mishra, president of Sankat Mochan Foundation (SMF) and former head of the Civil Engineering Department at ITBHU Varanasi.
"The sewage outflow from Nagwa nullah is 40MLD. What purpose will a 20 MLD plant serve? It will fail. And why does the government want us to spend more money again in preparing a DPR for the 20MLD plant?"
Interestingly, the government's own committees - the National River Conservation Department and the Research Advisory Committee (RAC) of the National Ganga River Basin Authority in 2010 gave the plant a go-ahead with respect to its technicality.
SMF, a registered society in Varanasi, prepared a comprehensive plan to reduce the flow of sewage from Varanasi city into the river. The plan was accepted by the Varanasi Nagar Nigam unanimously, but in 2001, during the second phase of Ganga Action Plan, an alternative conventional plan was implemented by the National River Conservation Department (NRCD).
But it was only in 2008 that NRCD wrote to the government of Uttar Pradesh to stop work on the alternative 37 MLD Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) at Ramana in Varanasi and offer support to SMF for building an innovative Advanced Integrated Wastewater Pond System (AIWS) STP, a technology patented by the University of California, costing Rs 53 crore.
After being reviewed by technical committees of the government of India as well as technical institutes, the proposed AIWPS plant and an interceptor sewer were given a go-ahead by the NRCD in 2008, and again by Research Advisory Committee (RAC) of the National Ganga River Basin Authority in 2010.
However, according to SMF, the NGRBA has till date neither released funds for the AIWPS proposal or for the preparation of a Detailed Project Report for the interceptor sewer.
Outraged over the government's insensitivity towards the issue, environmentalist and former IIT professor GD Agarwal also known as Swami Gyan Swarup Sanand, who has been on a fast since January 15, along with four other eminent members - Magsaysay Award winner Rajendra Singh, SMF president Veer Bhadra Mishra, Ravi Chopra and Rashid Hyatt Siddiqui - resigned from the NGRBA.
Rajendra Singh, charged the government of "not being serious towards Ganga."
"We see it as our moral responsibility to resign as members of the NGRBA. The government has neither political will nor any executable plan. During the three and a half years of NGRBA that was formed to restore the ancient place of pride and respect to Ganga, it met only twice."
"Sewage Roko - Clean Ganga Now!"
The Sankat Mochan Foundation has not given up hope. On March 22, World Water Day, an online campaign "Sewage Roko - Clean Ganga Now!", will be launched, and a petition will be forwaded to Uttar Pradesh CM Akhilesh Yadav.
A human chain will also be formed along the religious bathing areas of Varanasi from Assi Ghat to Adikeshav Ghat. The SMF has invited people to assemble at the riverfront. Following the Human Chain there will be a Public Forum at Rajendra Prasad Ghat at 8am.
The Sankat Mochan Foundation are asking people to do three things for Ganga, this World Water Day:
Attend the World Water Day Human Chain in Varanasi (or like Sewage Roko - Clean Ganga Now on facebook).
Sign the Sewage Roko - Clean Ganga NOW Petition and ask their friends to sign it as well.
Stop personal actions that pollute Ganga such as disposing waste and ask others to do the same.
More information about the campaign can be found at cleanganganow.org