“Clean Up or Perish” by Times of India
“Clean Up or Perish.” The Times of India. 19 March 2010.
Clean Up Or Perish
Mar 19, 2010, 12.21am IST
The state of India’s main rivers reflects the callousness and ineptitude with which we approach the issue of managing our natural resources. Thanks to a lack of long-term river conservation or water management policies, several rivers across the country have either run dry or resemble rivulets. And those which still flow fine are wracked by pollution, and often resemble giant drains. Two of India’s most important rivers – Ganga and Yamuna are also the filthiest. Decades-long efforts by the government to breathe life into them through massive clean-up programmes have come to naught. Consider this: Over Rs 1,000 crore have been pumped into the Ganga Action Plan I and II between 1985 and 2000, but India’s holiest river is still sullied.
Similarly, hundreds of crores have been spent on the Yamuna Action Plan, but there’s little to show for the expenditure. It’s literally money sent down the drain. A rough estimate recently tallied by the Planning Commission indicates that the National River Conservation Plan projects all over India would cost up to Rs 33,000 crore, with almost Rs 7, 000 crore needed to fix the Ganga’s problems alone. Meanwhile, the government is now seeking an additional Rs 833 crore from the Japan International Cooperation Agency in partnership with whom it implements the Yamuna Action Plan to fund the third phase of the project. But merely throwing more money is not going to solve the crisis.
A combination of factors has led to the extensive pollution of the Ganga and Yamuna. Industrial effluents and sewage contribute the most to their pollution as well as certain practices people follow in the name of religion, like throwing holy offerings that are often packaged in non-degradable plastics. Therefore, any successful attempt to clean up these rivers mandates that citizens partner the government or even take the lead.
It goes without saying that the government should formulate strict pollution norms for industries that are situated on river banks and enforce them, as well as boost sewage treatment capacities along the course of these rivers. On our part, we would do well to stop treating our rivers and other water resources as garbage dumps. There are examples from around the world where active public-private partnerships have brought dying rivers back to life. The Thames project in England is a good example where the public was made a stakeholder in the river’s sustenance. What’s stopping us?