For most pilgrims, a journey to the city is incomplete without taking a ‘holy’ dip in the Ganga, despite its water being deemed unfit for bathing. As part of the municipal body’s efforts to clean the river, the city’s sewage treatment capacity will be increased to 400 mld from the current 102 mld by 2017, Mr. Mohale says.
However, activists, involved in the movement to save the Ganga, point out that the Namami Ganga project’s singular focus on sewage treatment plants (STPs), with little attention to problems posed by the restricted flow of the river, is a recipe for failure.
Vishwambhar Nath Mishra, professor at Benares Hindu University and mahant (chief priest) of the Sankat Mochan Temple, told The Hindu that the government had betrayed the trust of the people of Varanasi by revealing its intention to build new barrages and waterway projects from Haldia to Allahabad. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari had announced these plans during the Ganga Manthan programme held soon after the NDA came to power.
Dr. Mishra said activated sludge plants now deployed for sewage treatment did not have the capacity to remove faecal coliform bacteria. The earlier clean-up efforts, into which crores of rupees was pumped, failed as these plants ran out of capacity, he said.
Swami Avimukteshwaranand, mahant of the Vidya Matt, said if the Narendra Modi government really meant business, it should commit itself to maintaining the ‘aviral dhara’ of the river.
Interlinking of rivers, construction of new dams, water diversion and extraction for drinking water supply and other purposes had also resulted in the deterioration of the water quality, but there was no commitment on the part of the government to address this issue as of now, he said.