Why in news?
- D. Agarwal, 86, who was on a fast to save the Ganga, died following a heart attack.
About Dr. G.D. Agarwal
- Dr G. D. Agrawal is a notable environment activist and patron of Ganga Mahasabha (An organisation founded by Madan Mohan Malviya in 1905, demanding removal of dams on Ganga).
- He was formerly a professor in the civil engineering department at IIT-Kanpur.
- He had adopted the name Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand.
- The environmentalist was vocal on disallowing hydroelectric projects in Uttarakhand along the Ganga.
- In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in June 2018, he declared his intention to go on a fast as several of his demands had not been met.
- His key demands included – a special law to deal with pollution and encroachment on the Ganga, and maintaining the environmental flow of the river to prevent pollution.
- Agrawal died on 11 October 2018, after being on an indefinite fast since 22 June 2018, demanding the government act on its promises to clean and save river Ganga.
About Ganga Mahasabha
- Ganga Mahasabha is an organisation dedicated to the Ganga, founded by Madan Mohan Malviya in 1905.
- After a long struggle, British India agreed on 5 November 1914 that the uninterrupted flow of the Ganges is the rudimentary right of Hindu believers.
- The day is known as a ‘Aviral Ganga Samjhauta Divas’ (Uninterrupted Ganga flow agreement day) in the history of India and the agreement came into existence on 19 December 1916 which is known as Agreement of 1916.
- The sanctity of the agreement is not preserved by the state and central governments of India after independence though it is legally valid.
- More and more river water is diverted for irrigation use converting the river into a polluted sewer.
Why rivers are becoming more polluted?
- There are poor infrastructures available in large number of cities and towns located near rivers.
- Managing sewage requires steady funding of treatment plants for all urban agglomerations that discharge their waste into rivers, and also a reliable power supply.
- Rapid urbanisation is widening the gap since infrastructure planning is not keeping pace with growth in housing.
Recent CPCB report
- A finding of Central Pollution Control Board shows that the number of critically polluted segments of India’s rivers has risen to 351 from 302 two years ago
- The study also underscores the failure of many national programmes run by the Centre for river conservation, preservation of wetlands, and water quality monitoring
- This is a strong indictment of the departments responsible for environmental protection
Main sources of pollutants in Ganga
- Though the industrial pollution, volume-wise, accounts for about 20%, its toxic and non-biodegradable nature has a disproportionate impact
- The industrial pollutants largely emanate from tanneries in Kanpur and distilleries, paper mills and sugar mills in the Kosi, Ramganga and Kali river catchments
- The municipal sewage, at a billion litres a day, accounts for 80% of the pollution load
Measures that need to be taken
- Sustained civil society pressure on governments is vital to ensure enforcement of laws by the SPCBs and Pollution Control Committees
- On the industrial side, the plan to bring all liquid effluent discharge from textile units and tanneries to zero has to be pursued vigorously, giving industries the assistance to help them choose the best technologies for the recovery of waste water for reuse
- A 2013 World Bank study estimated that environmental degradation is costing India at least $80 billion a year, of which losses to rivers form a significant part
- Urgent measures are needed to revive India’s many dying rivers, protect its agriculture, and prevent serious harm to public health from contaminated water.