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The unholy dip: Most of river Ganga unfit even for bathing

The central pollution control board (CPCB), under its national water quality monitoring programme, has stated that the urban centres located on the river’s banks like Haridwar, Kannauj, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna and Kolkata draw fresh water from the river and dispose of the entire waste water into the Ganga.

Assessing the river quality at 57 monitoring stations, the CPCB has found high biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) values of the river, ranging between 0.2-11 mg/l (as against the permitted 3 mg/l or less) in Uttarakhand, with holy town Haridwar recording the maximum value, followed by Rishikesh and Raiwala.

The faecal coliform levels in the state also ranged between 5-46,000 most probable number (MPN)/100ml (as against allowed 500-2,500 MPN/100ml) at Rudraprayag and Devprayag. The total coliform levels also varied between 5-5,80,000 (against 50 or lesser) and did not meet the primary water criteria at all monitored locations at Alaknanda and Mandakini rivers and at Haridwar and Rishikesh. Such pollution in Uttarakhand was also accounted to numerous drains emptying into the Ganga.

From Garhmukteswar to Kanpur in UP’s upper stretch, the dissolved oxygen levels were found much in excess at Kanpur. All places along this stretch showed high BOD levels between 1.6-9.6 mg/l. The faecal coliform levels between Kanpur and Kannauj were recorded at 70-93000 MPN/100ml. The total coliform levels stood at 150-240000 MPN/100ml, defying the best use criteria. Bihar, however, has showed some signs of improvement, with less organic pollution noted at most places, although the river water in this state had high faecal contamination.

The diversion of water through Upper and Lower Ganga Canals, leaves virtually very little or no flow in the main river. In the absence of adequate flow, the unabated discharge of treated sewage, even with 100 pc treatment and BOD level of 30 mg/l, cannot bring the river quality to bathing level in the lean season flow, the report, accessed by Millennium Post, warns.

The Ganga in West Bengal is also critically polluted with Dissolved Oxygen (DO) at Tribeni, Howrah-Shivpur, Garden Reach and Uluberia, ranging between 4.3-13.4 mg/l(against standard 5 mg/l or more). The BOD levels were recorded to be at 0.3-8-2 mg/l while the faecal coliform and total coliform levels ranged between 700-1100000 and 900-2500000 MPN/100 ml.

At least 36 tier-I cities situated on Ganga mainstream generate 2,601.3 MLD wastewater but are treating only 1,192.4 MLD waste, contributing 96 per cent of the total waste into river. About 14 tier-II cities produce 122 MLD waste and are equipped to treat merely 16.4 MLD waste.

R M Bhardwaj, senior scientist and pollution assessment in-charge, CPCB, said, ‘Most of the treatment plants are inferior.

We need to upgrade out treatment technology. We have to go for primary, secondary and tertiary treatment. The design, size and retention of the plants need to be overhauled.’
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