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Clean Ganga water still a dream

PATNA: While the state government makes tall claims about providing clean drinking water to the people, the water of the Ganga river is not only unsafe to drink, it is also unfit for taking a bath.

“The stream flowing near Patna has high concentration of organic load primarily because of untreated sewerage water flowing into it,” remarked head of the department of environment science, A N College, Bihari Singh. He said that though the quality of water in midstream is slightly better, it still was not good enough. Incidentally, during Chhath festival a sea of humanity gathers at different `ghats’ of Ganga to take a dip in the river and even take a sip due to religious belief.

“Right from Danapur to Patna City area, there are about 30 major `nalas’ which dump sewerage into the Ganga. Patna dumps around 110 million litres of sewerage into the Ganga every day. The capacity of water treatment plants is about 85 million litres per day. But they never function in full capacity due to mechanical or power problems,” remarked environmental scientist Neeraj Jha.

The permissible pollution level for drinking river water is coliform count of 50 most probable number (MPN)/100 ml while for taking a bath in it is 500 MPN/100 ml. Scientific tests of Ganga water in Patna point to a coliform count of 19,000 MPN in upstream and 38,000 MPN downstream. Incidentally, the only place where Ganga water meets the permissible limits for drinking and bathing is Rishikesh. The critical stretch of the Ganga starts from Kanpur where the coliform count is 2.4 lakh MPN/100 ml.

In Patna, the Phase II of the Ganga Action Plan mooted a plan of not a single drop of sewerage water being discharged into the Ganga and its diversion into Punpun river after treatment for being used for irrigation purpose. The plan never took off. Under the Ganga Action Plan, the country has already spent Rs 1,400 crore to make the river free of pollution and yet environmentalists point out that around 45 per cent of the sewerage discharged into it goes untreated.

More recently, the National Ganga Basin Authority mooted a Rs 33,000 crore plan under the National River Conservation Programme to make all the rivers of India pollution free. However, there is a hitch as the Centre has asked the states to foot half of this bill.

The states want the Centre to bear the entire cost of the project. It will take much more to restore `Holy Ganga’ to its original pride.

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