Untreated municipal sewage and industrial toxics are viewed as the worst demons for the Ganga. They pollute the oxygen-rich water, making it unfit even for bathing or washing. But some experts and activists have a different take on the issue. They argue that the perennial river has enough natural flow to cleanse itself. But the problem is that numerous hydro-power projects on feeder streams of the Ganga are screwing up its flow in the Himalayas. Spending thousands of crores to clean Ganga would not help until its normal flow is restored. The same theory applies to the pollution of Yumana. Even a marginal surge in water can flush out a huge quantity of pollutants. This was demonstrated during the Kumbh Mela at Allahabad earlier this year.
The Kumbh Mela experience
The Tehri Hydro Development Corporation (THDC) released 250 cumecs of water from December 21, 2012 to February 20, 2013 and 220 cumecs during the ensuing week to maintain adequate water level at Prayag for the Kumbh Mela. The Uttar Pradesh Government only ensured that existing Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) in Kanpur and Allahabad worked properly. Even with 100 million devotees taking holy dip the biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) remained within tolerable limits- 7 to 9 mg/l. Without infusion of this fresh water, it was estimated to rise 25 to 30 mg/l.
Hydel projects squeeze the Ganga
The hydel projects in the Himalayas are not few in number. As per the data compiled by the Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG), headed by BK Chaturvedi, Member, Planning Commission there are 69 hydel projects in the upper Ganga Basin. Out of these 17 projects are operational, 25 under construction, 10 projects have been cleared by the Central Electricity authority and 17 projects are under development/review stage. Harish Rawat, the Minister of Water Resources, provided these figures to Lok Sabha on May 2, 2013.
One is appalled at the prospect of these planned projects becoming operational. Their effect on the fragile ecosystem of Uttarakhand would be cataclysmic. The hydel projects threaten the very survival of the Ganga. A depleted Ganga, in turn, would have disastrous effect on the thickly populated Gangetic plains.
Src: NITI Central