Ganga missing from poll debate in Kashi - Hindustan Times

Ganga missing from poll debate in Kashi

By, Varanasi
Jan 31, 2022 12:44 AM IST

While it appears most politicians don’t have the time to talk about the Ganga, people should raise the issue, say locals and activists in Kashi

The Ganga is flowing calmly in Varanasi amid the din of the 2022 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections but the issue of the river’s cleanliness is missing from the poll debate in Kashi.

Activists in Kashi say the Ganga will be fully clean all along its course when all take responsibility for the task. (HT PHOTO)
Activists in Kashi say the Ganga will be fully clean all along its course when all take responsibility for the task. (HT PHOTO)

An abundance of flowers, rose and marigold petals, plastic bottles and wrappers float on the water near the iconic Dashashwamedh Ghat in Kashi.

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Ganga activist Rajesh Shukla and local people, who revere the river as a goddess, are disappointed at the river’s absence from the poll debate this time and call it strange.

Shukla, who cleans a stretch of the Ganga along a ghat daily, says, “In this election season, politicians(in Kashi) are quiet about cleaning the Ganga. It appears that this plank has been lost in the noise of other issues such as caste and creed. It is really disappointing.”

With a basket in hand, Shukla enters the river and collects floating flower petals, plastic bottles and other waste. He puts them in the basket and takes them out of the river. He places it at the stairs of the ghat. After sometime, Varanasi Municipal Corporation sanitation workers collect the garbage and take it daily to the dumping yard in Ramna.

Shukla says, “People should raise the issue of cleaning the Ganga before the politicians in order that they get to know its importance to achieve the goal of nirmal Ganga, aviral Ganga (clean Ganga with uninterrupted flow).”

At the same time, Shukla admits that the government has built seven sewage treatment plants (STPs) of 421 MLD (million litres per day) capacity in Varanasi and come up with schemes like Namami Gange for cleaning the river. Consequently, the Ganga has become cleaner in Varanasi, he adds.

But the goal of making the Ganga nirmal (clean) fully (all through its course) will be achieved only when every person takes responsibility for the task, he says.

“The Ganga is a source of livelihood for the hoteliers along the rivers, boatmen, flower sellers, priests, farmers and shopkeepers who sell materials used in worship and those who run cruise on the river,” says Rajesh Shukla.

These people should contribute to the efforts to clean the Ganga and raise this issue in poll chats, suggests Shukla.

Shivdutt Dwivedi, another volunteer, says, “It should be ensured that each and every drop of sewage is treated and then only it should be released.”

Ekta Shekhar, an environmental activist, too, says the issue of cleaning the Ganga is missing from the poll debate. “Politicians and participants have spent hours discussing caste equations and other issues. Ironically, locals are entangled in these issues and not talking about cleaning the Ganga. This is the right time to raise the issue,” Ekta Shekhar says.

Shambhu Manjhi, a boatman, says, “We want every person to take a pledge not to throw garbage and plastic waste into the Ganga. If everyone follows it, the desired results will be there in the near future.” Kishori Raman, a priest, says, “Keeping the Ganga clean is the responsibility of all.”

Varanasi generates around 350 MLD sewage, which used to flow untreated to the Ganga through 30 drains earlier.

Twenty of these drains have been tapped fully, while two others, including the ones at Khidkiya Ghat and Nagwan, have been partially tapped. The Samne Ghat and Nakkhi Ghat drains and two others have to be tapped yet, says an official of the state pollution control board, pleading anonymity.

Varanasi is equipped with seven STPs, including five new ones. Despite that 100 MLD sewage, including 40 MLD from a drain at Khidkiya Ghat, 30 MLD in Nagwan, and 30 MLD from a drain in Mughalsarai, falls into the Ganga untreated because some drains have been only partially tapped.

Executive engineer and project manager (Ganga Pollution Control Unit) SK Burman says except Goithaha, all STPs are working at full capacity. All the networks (pipelines) that carry sewage to the STPs are not yet fully connected, due to which only 40 to 45 MLD sewage is being treated at the Goithaha STP. Soon, all the networks will be connected to the STP and the sewage treatment will start working here soon at full capacity, he adds.

UP Pollution Control Board regional officer Kalika Singh says, “Regular monitoring is being done to ensure that not a single drop of sewage falls into the Ganga in Varanasi untreated. We will ensure that the partially tapped drains are fully tapped and the entire 350 MLD sewage is treated and properly released in the Ganga only thereafter.”

Singh says a detailed project report is being prepared for one more STP of 50 MLD capacity to treat surplus sewage.

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