Toilet construction works along Ganges river ‘to be completed by March 2015’ by Gulf News
By Lata Rani, Gulf News
23rd August, 2014
Patna: As the campaign to keep the Ganges clean picks up momentum, the state government in Bihar has now decided to construct toilets for villagers with the objective to keep the ‘sacred’ river free from pollution.
The government believes the open defecation by the villagers along the banks of the Ganges has been one of the main causes of polluting India’s national river, and says this problem could be tackled if toilets were made available to the people at home.
The Ganges which enters in Bihar at Buxur passes through 11 other districts before moving into West Bengal but most of the homes located on its bank do not have toilets, a survey conducted by the state government in July this year has revealed.
According to a survey, more than half of the total 818,679 homes in 307 village panchayats across 12 districts settled along the banks of Ganges currently do not have toilets. The survey found that only 294,691 houses have toilets.
“We noticed the continuing practice of open defection by the villagers was one of the main reasons behind polluting the national river and decided to arrange toilets for them on priority basis. We are encouraging the villagers to get a toilet at home and save the Ganges,” Bihar’s Public Health and Engineering Department minister Mahachandra Prasad Singh told the Gulf News in an interview.
Prime Minister’s project
“We thought we too must contribute significantly towards keeping the river clean when Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked of launching project to keep the Ganges free form pollution,” the minister said adding the toilet completion works would be completed by March 31, 2015 on priority basis. “We hope to achieve half of the target by December this year itself,” the minister said. According to him, apart from individual toilets, the community toilets will be constructed in schools and anganwadi centres or courtyard shelters.
As per a latest official report, 22 million households out of Bihar’s total population of over 110 million do not have toilets, and taking the matter seriously, the state government has now barred those not having toilets in their homes from contesting local bodies’ polls (panchayat and urban bodies’ elections) in a bid to create awareness among the general masses about the importance of sanitation. The order was issued in November last year.
The increasing level of water pollution of the Ganges remains a matter of serious concern, and according to experts, its water is now unfit for both bathing and drinking.
“The bacterial load in the river water has alarmingly increased in the past five years, and as per our assessment, the faecal coliform count in the stretch of the Ganges in Bihar has currently gone six times higher than the permissible limit of 500 MPN (Most Probable Number) per 100ml,” said Professor Ravindra Kumar Sinha, a member of the National Ganga River Basin Authority which was established by the central government in February 2009 with the purpose to safeguard the drainage basin which feeds water into the Ganges by protecting it from pollution or overuse.
According to Sinha who is also a zoology professor at Patna University, the river water is not fit for even bathing. “There has been a general complains of itching on the body after taking a bath,” Verma said adding serious efforts must be initiated to check both solid and liquid wastes being dumped into the river.
The new Narendra Modi government in India while taking the Ganga cleaning issue very seriously has made initial allocation of more than Rs20 billion as part of an integrated Ganga conservation plan called ‘Namami Gange’.