If prime minister Narendra Modi had taken a few more steps and walked southwards from Asi ghat, he would have been shocked to see a channel emptying untreated sewage in Ganga
Swati Chandra | March 22, 2017 | New Delhi
When the truth was a few steps away from Modi’s gaze
In November 2014, prime minister Narendra Modi made his first visit to his constituency Varanasi and launched a massive cleanliness drive at Asi ghat, which was covered in mud and silt.
When locals saw their MP and country’s prime minister wielding a spade, several organisations, celebrities, youngsters took interest and the ghat was cleaned in less than a month’s time. It was something which the municipal authorities had not able to do for more than a decade. Asi ghat trended on Twitter. Incredible India and Swachh Bharat signboards were put up at the ghat.
However, if Modi had taken a few more steps and walked southwards from Asi ghat, he would have been anguished to see a huge channel emptying untreated sewage in Ganga. This channel was Asi nallah. Asi was once a river which used to meet Ganga at Asi ghat. The sound of the sewage in the drain entering the Ganga can be heard from quite a distance. This filth not only brings to the river municipal sewage, it also pushes into the river four million litres of oily and greasy substance from nearby industries. [Ref: Prof VK Kumra of BHU in a book titled Geography and Environment: Issues and Challenges].
Apart from Asi, a total of 250 MLD of untreated sewage enters the river through different channels. For industries and inefficient municipal corporations in towns on the banks of Ganga, the river is nothing but a dead canal to dump waste.
The Ganga suffers silently.
Praying and cooking on Ganga river bank
Some 24 km from Varanasi, lies a small village called Adalhaat. Here, hundreds of men and women assemble on the banks of the Ganga almost every day to worship Hindu Goddess Sheetla. One can spot hundreds of earthen stoves made on the sandy river bank. People bring raw material from homes and cook food on these stoves using water from the river. The people in the Ganga water.
After cooking and having their food, they make sure that nothing enters the Ganga. Because of their proximity with the river, for them, Ganga is a living entity. A Goddess.
A living entity
The Uttarakhand high court’s decision to give legal rights to Ganga is a welcome step. The judgement guarantees the river the same legal rights like us. This means the cases of illegal dumping of waste, discharge untreated sewage etc. can now be directly brought to the court on the behalf of Ganga in Uttarakhand.
If all goes well, the landmark judgement will have a positive bearing on the Ganga cleaning initiatives.
Fire on the Ganges: Life among the Dead in Banaras By Radhika Iyengar 4th Estate / HarperCollins, 348 pages, 599
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