Friday, June 29, 2012

Plans afoot to revive grandeur of Ganga

On its 2,525km journey from Gomukh to Bay of Bengal, the Ganga, which is supposed to be the lifeline of the millions of people, seems to have lost its way near Patna. People residing on the bank of the Ganga around Digha and Bansghat areas in the city see the river on the horizon. It has shifted its course away from the city by more than three kms in the last three decades.

The river stretch once used for passenger ships cruising from Mahendru Ghat to Pahlezaghat, Hajipur, has turned into farm lands. The dry bed of the Ganga is also being used as a playground by the cricket lovers. Almost all the ghats are stinking, littered with heaps of garbage and sewage all around.

But, thanks to the recent initiative taken by the Nitish Kumar government, the neglected and unused portion of the Ganga is likely to be developed into a world city soon. The change in the course of the river at various points has ended up facilitating the long-awaited and much needed Ganga beautification drive as the government is keen on using the reclaimed land for the purpose. Some concrete plans are afoot to beautify the entire stretch of the Ganga, in and around Patna, and also to minimize the pollution of the river water by checking indiscriminate discharge of sewage water into the river.

Quite recently, Hafeez Contractor, one of India's best known architects, submitted to the state government his plan to develop a world city alongside the river Ganga here, on the lines of Dubai, that will boast of eco-friendly buildings and water sports facilities. The plan, highly appreciated by chief minister Nitish Kumar, envisages a new city spread over an area of 1,700 acres. This would include residential, commercial and entertainment centres on 300 acres, while 350 acres would be developed as green fields. A park on the lines of New York Park would be developed on 600 acres. Other facilities like seven-star hotels, malls and shopping centres, schools, hospitals, health clubs, meditation centres, art galleries, convention centres and sports centres would also be created in the planned city.

Urban development minister Prem Kumar told TOI that Contractor's proposal is under active consideration of the state government, but a final decision in the matter is yet to be taken.
For making Ganga pollution free, the state government would set up sewage treatment plants along its banks from Buxar to Bhagalpur.

The state government has sanctioned plans for sewage treatment plants (STPs) at Patna, Buxar, Hajipur, Munger and Begusarai, the minister said and added that officials concerned had been directed to prepare detailed project reports for the rest 21 towns located on the banks of Ganga. The sewerage network and sewerage treatment plants (STPs) at Patna are to be constructed under the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) at an estimated cost of Rs 330 crore. The sewerage network and the STPs would clean the sewerage water of these towns and the treated water of designated standards would be discharged into Ganga, said an official of the state urban and housing department.

The current sewage network and the STPs at Patna are insufficient to cater to the requirements of the city. Patna, presently, generates around 350 million litres per day (MLD) of sewerage, which gets treated at four STPs, which have a combined capacity of only 109 MLD. The STP at Saidpur has a capacity to treat 45 MLD, another at Beur can treat 35 MLD, the STP at Pahadi has a capacity of 25 MLD while the Karmalichak plant has a capacity of 4 MLD only. The rest goes into the river untreated.

As about 29 drains in the state capital discharge 350 million litres of sewage into the Ganges every day, the river's water has become highly contaminated. It has been declared unfit for drinking and even for a holy dip. Samples of water tested in different laboratories have revealed a high presence of Cauliform bacteria. "The water is untreated and garbage is dumped into the river contributing to the growth of this bacteria," said environmentalist Mehta Nagendra Singh.

The Union government has sanctioned Rs 440 crore for development of the drainage system in four cities of Bihar —Begusarai, Buxar, Hajipur and Munger. Besides, 19 cities and towns on the banks of Ganga in Bihar will be developed. For this, the Union government has sanctioned Rs 3,100 crore. The project would be funded by World Bank.

Meanwhile, the union finance ministry and Planning Commission have cleared Patna's 40km Ganga driveway project, which will cost Rs 2,400 crore. As part of its first phase, the Ganga driveway will cover a distance of 21.5km, from Digha to Deedarganj, and the second phase will take the driveway as far as Fatuha, a distance of 18km from Deedarganj. A significant part of the driveway, about 7km long, will run on an elevated platform. The plan is to beautify the entire stretch with greenery and other civic amenities. The project forms an integral part of the vision 2021 document for the state. The 21.5km Ganga Path, to come up at Patna by June 2015, will be one of the country's biggest public-private-partnership projects.

The proposed Ganga Path will have a pan-Bihar significance. It will be an arterial route for those using five national highways connected to Patna. It is estimated that the driveway, once ready, will be used by about 14,000 vehicles using the national highways every day, and take at least 30% off the city's traffic load. It will become a key link in the journey to Nepal in the north and to Haldia/Paradip ports in the east.

Along the driveway from Digha to Deedarganj will be two major bridges connecting Patna to the educational and industrial hubs of Hajipur and Muzaffarpur. One of them, towards the western end at Digha, will be completed by this year end. The other one, Mahatma Gandhi Setu near the eastern end, is already in place.

Six construction companies, including Gammon, Nagarjun and Reliance, have shown interest in constructing the proposed 40-km driveway along the banks of the Ganga river at Patna, modelled on Mumbai's Marine Drive, said an official of the Bihar State Road Development Corporation. The Corporation, in November, will select one of the six leading construction companies that it has shortlisted. The government has reportedly a deal with Transparency International to ensure transparency in the bidding process, the official added.

Appreciating the recent efforts of the Central as well as state government for beautifying the Ganga river front in and around the city, National Ganga River Basin Authority member and Central University of Bihar (CUB)'s environmental science department head, Ravindra Kumar Sinha, expressed his concern over the increasing pollution level in the river. Reducing the flow of water in the river, ever-increasing siltation, dumping of solid wastes and encroachment on river bed by private parties for construction purposes have all been proving disastrous for the health of the river. If the present trend continues, the Ganga may become dry one day. He pleaded for the protection of all the wetlands in the Ganga basin for saving the river.

A joint study conducted by Environmental Biology Laboratory of Patna University, Environment Conservation Department of Ehime University, Japan, and Institute for Environmental Technology of Michigan University, USA, has revealed the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and organochlorine pesticide (like DDT) residues in very high concentration in sediment and fishes in the Ganga at various locations. The survival of flora and fauna, including dolphins, is at stake owing to the increasing concentration of these toxic substances.

Sinha pleaded for protecting the dolphins, which are supposed to be an indicator of the purity of river water. The chief minister recently agreed to a proposal for setting up a dolphin research centre in Patna University, he said.

PU geology department has recently joined an ambitious Ganga River Basin Management Plan launched by the Union ministry of environment and forest. Being a part of fluvial geomorphology group of the plan, the department is preparing a geomorphic map of the river based on remote sensing and GIS tools with a view to analysing the channel morphology and flood plain modifications, said principal investigator Ramesh Shukla.

B K Mishra,
June 25, 2012

No comments: