Veerbhadra Mishra on Ganga Action Plan
Did GAP's first phase benefit Varanasi?
Not at all. gap's first phase in the Ganga's Varanasi stretch concluded in 1993. But all sewage is still discharged into the river. In fact, the Ganga has worsened, especially up to three metres from the ghats. So, many take their holy bath in dirty waters. In the last five years, the biological oxygen demand (bod) has increased, implying that the water has more organic matter. Faecal coliform levels have also increased in the last five years.
In all, the river remains polluted, domestic sewage continues to flow into it and people are suffering.
What accounts for this failure?
It's a clear case of bad planning. The Ganga Authority was created in 1985 and late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi initiated gap in Varanasi in 1986. All planning was done in a year: prescribing medicines without diagnosing the disease. At that time, we did not know the total sewage flowing into the river. Even today, what we have is an estimated value.
There were numerous other problems. 70 per cent of the fuel required by the sludge plants is biogas. But after the plants were completed, it was found that there was no biogas for them. Moreover, any scientist will tell you that sludge plants don't control faecal coliform, they are merely equipped to undertake primary and secondary treatment. So, gap did little to control faecal coliform.
That's not all. The sewage is drawn at 30 stations that run on electricity. So every time electricity fails