6 फरवरी 2009/ आमरण अनशन का आज 24 वां दिन है।
गंगा हमारे देश की पवित्रतम् नदी है। उसी के इर्द-गिर्द हमारी संस्कृति और सभ्यता फूली-फली। पर भौतिकवादी सोच के चलते हमारे देश के योजनाकार गंगा के अस्तित्व को ही समाप्त कर देना चाहते हैं। बांधों की अतंहीन शृंखला में गंगा कहीं गुम सी हो गई है। अकेले भागीरथी पर 10 बांध है। इन बांधों से गंगा का नैसर्गिक प्रवाह पूरी तरह रुक गया है। वैज्ञानिकों का मानना है कि ग्लोबलवार्मिंग के चलते गर्म होते तापमान से हिमालय के पिघलने का खतरा बढ़ा है। कहा तो यह भी जा रहा है कि सुरक्षा का प्रतीक हिमालय पूरी तरह 2030 तक पिघल जायेगा।
इन्हीं खतरो को भांपकर देश के जाने माने पर्यावरणविद प्रो. गुरुदास अग्रवाल ने पिछले साल 13 जून को उत्तर काशी के मणिकर्णिका घाट पर अपना आमरण अनशन प्रारम्भ किया था। इसके परिणाम स्वरूप 19 जून 2008 को उत्तराखण्ड सरकार द्वारा दो परियोजनाओं भैरव घाटी (381 मेगावाट) तथा पाला मेनेरी (480 मेगावाट) पर तत्काल प्रभाव से काम रोक दिया। पर गंगा रक्षा की लड़ाई पूरी नहीं हुई थी।
इसी बात को समझते हुए गुरुदास अग्रवाल बीते 23 जनवरी से दिल्ली में फिर अनशन पर बैठ गए। उनकी प्रमुख मांग यह है कि एनटीपीसी द्वारा बनाई जा रही परियोजना लोहारी नागपाला (600 मेगावाट) का काम तत्काल प्रभाव से रोका जाए। जब 30 जून 2008 को जीडी ने अपना अनशन तोड़ा था तो उस वक्त केन्द्र सरकार के ऊर्जा मंत्रालय ने तीन महीने के अन्दर एक्सपर्ट ग्रुप बनाकर उचित कार्यवाही करने का आश्वासन दिया था।
उस वक्त अशोक सिंघल, स्वामी हंसदास, मदनलाल खुराना, पंकज सिंह, बाबा रामदेव (संयोजक, गंगा रक्षक मंच) और स्वामी चिदानंद ने अनशन समाप्त करने का आग्रह इस वायदे के साथ किया था कि वे जी.डी. की मांगों को पूरा करने के लिए सरकार पर दबाव बनाएंगे। पिछले छ: महीनों में इन्होंने अपने वायदे के अनुसार क्या किया, यह इन लोगों से पूछे जाने की जरूरत है।
पाला मेनेरी (480 मेगावाट)
30 जून, 2008 को अनशन समाप्त होने के बाद एक जांच कमेटी बनायी गयी। उस कमेटी में स्वामी हंसदास की ओर से पारितोष त्यागी और स्वरुपानन्द सरस्वती जी महाराज की ओर से राजेन्द्र सिंह नामित किये गये। उस कमेटी में प्रो. गुरुदास अग्रवाल का भी नाम था और अब भी है। लेकिन अपने नाम के ऊपर आपत्ति गुरुदास अग्रवाल ने पत्र के माध्यम से दर्ज करा दी। फिर भी उनका नाम नहीं हटाया गया। प्रो. अग्रवाल उस जांच कमेटी के गठन पर ही सवालिया निशान खड़ा कर रहे थे। उनका संदेह सही साबित हुआ।
लगभग 6 महीने के बाद 11-12 जनवरी 09 को जांच दल बांधों का निरीक्षण करने पहुंचा। उस समय बांधो के बंधे जल का प्रवाह जानबूझ कर बढ़ा दिया गया ताकि रिपोर्ट अपने मनमाफिक बनायी जा सके। जांच दल को काफी स्थानिक विरोध का सामना करना पड़ा। स्थानीय भुक्तभोगियों का कहना था कि पहाड़ों में सुरंगों के चलते धंस रहे गांवो को भी आप देखो। जांच दल ने अपनी ओर से नामित सदस्यों के तर्कों से सहमत होने के बाद भी रिपोर्ट का जो खाका खींचा है, वह आश्चर्य जनक है।
इस रिपोर्ट में बताया गया है कि गंगा में पर्याप्त मात्रा में जल आ रहा है। रपट कहती है कि बांधों से कोई भी नुकसान नहीं है। वास्तव में जांच कमेटी की रिपोर्ट झूठ का पुलिन्दा है। इससे सरकार की मंशा पर ही सवालिया निशान खड़ा होता है। इस जांच दल की रिपोर्ट में नामित सदस्यों में पारितोष त्यागी, राजेन्द्र सिंह और रवि चोपड़ा के तर्को को अभी तक शामिल नहीं किया गया। जिसकी वजह से राजेन्द्र सिंह और आर. एन. सिंह ने इस्तीफा दे दिया। उल्लेखनीय है कि आर. एन. सिंह सरकार की ओर से नामित सदस्य थे। उनका कहना था कि 20 क्यूसेक प्रवाह होना चाहिए। वे 16 क्यूसेक तक प्रवाह भी स्वीकार करने को तैयार थे लेकिन उनकी भी नहीं सुनी गयी और उन्हें इस्तीफा देना पड़ा।
केन्द्र सरकार की ओर से 4 नवम्बर 2008 को गंगा को राष्ट्रीय नदी बनाने की घोषणा प्रधानमंत्री ने की। पर अभी तक राष्ट्रीय प्रतीक अधिनियम के अन्तर्गत कोई भी ठोस कार्यवाही नहीं की गयी है। इन सभी शंकाओं से परिचित होकर ही प्रो. गुरुदास अग्रवाल ने दिनांक 14 जनवरी 2009 से अपना आमरण अनशन दिल्ली के हिन्दू महासभा भवन में प्रारम्भ कर दिया है।
प्रो. अग्रवाल की मांग बस इतनी ही है कि गोमुख से उत्तर काशी तक गंगा का नैसर्गिक प्रवाह रहने दिया जाए। ताकि हम अपनी आने वाली पीढ़ी को गंगा मईया का नैसार्गिक प्रवाह दिखा सकें। उनका कहना है कि मेरी मांग गोमुख से उत्तर काशी की है, लेकिन गोमुख से गंगासागर तक गंगा का प्राकृतिक प्रवाह बना रहे तो सबके लिए बहुत अच्छा होगा।
प्रो. अग्रवाल देश के जाने-माने पर्यावरणविद् होने के नाते अपना कर्तव्य समझकर यह संकल्प दुहराते हैं कि मैं अपने जीते जी यह नहीं देख सकता कि पूरे भारत की आस्था की नदी, जो कि 65 करोड़ लोगों की आजीविका का साधन है, वह नदी अपने लिए जल को तरसे। आज जरूरत इस बात की है कि प्रो. अग्रवाल के इस पुनीत संकल्प में हम सब अपने-अपने स्तर पर कुछ ना कुछ सहयोग करें।
साभार –भारतीय पक्ष
साभार : इंडिया वाटर पोर्टल (हिन्दी)
Dr. G.D. Agrawal to continue his fast : 30th day
Dr. G.D. Agrawal, who is on a fast-unto-death against the construction of any project on the Bhagirathi between Gangotri and Uttarkashi has rejected the Union Ministry of Power’s request to end his fast saying that he could only do so once the natural flow of the Bhagirathi between Gangotri and Uttarkashi is guaranteed by the government and all works on the Loharinag-Pala HEP are stopped.
Meanwhile, recent reports in Dehra Doon’s local newspapers, attributed to highly placed sources, suggesting that the state government is likely to soon resume work on the Pala-Maneri and the Bhaironghati, hydro electric projects on the Bhagirathi, have been challenged by Dr. Ravi Chopra, Director, People’s Science Institute, Dehra Doon. “These reports are contrary to the stated policy of the Government of India,” says Dr. Ravi Chopra.
Giving details Dr. Chopra said, “In a letter dated February 5th to Dr. G.D. Agrawal, the Union Ministry of Power states that the GoI has confirmed that no further hydroelectric projects will be undertaken on the Bhagirathi.”
Dr. Chopra also dismissed the claims of these highly placed sources that the Government of Uttarakhand would soon resume work on its suspended HEPs once the recommendation of the High Level Expert Group (HLEG) for 4 cumecs environmental flow downstream of the Loharinag-Pala HEP were accepted by the Government of India. “This recommendation of the HLEG has clearly been rejected by the Government of India. Referring to a meeting held with Union Minister of Power, Shri Sushil Kumar Shinde and the Minister of State Prime Minister’s Office, Shri Prithiviraj Chavan, among others, the above-mentioned letter states that it has been agreed that the minimum flow of water from Lohari Nagpala barrage in the river bed during the lean period shall be ensured at 16 cumecs or as may be decided by the Ganga River Authority, which is under formation. The so-called highly placed sources appear to be highly motivated and are deliberately trying to mislead Uttarakhand’s people and decision makers,” charged Dr. Chopra.
The Ganga is a major river of the Indian subcontinent rising in the Himalaya Mountains and flowing about 2,510 km (1,560 mi) generally eastward through a vast plain to the Bay of Bengal. On its 1,560-mi (2,510-km) course, it flows southeast through the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal. In central Bangladesh it is joined by the Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers. Their combined waters (called the Padma River) empty into the Bay of Bengal and form a delta 220 mi (354 km) wide, which is shared by India and Bangladesh. Its plain is one of the most fertile and densely populated regions in the world. The Ganges alone drains an area of over a million square km with a population of over 407 million. Millions depend on water from the holy river for several things: drinking, bathing, agriculture, industry and other household chores.
Ganga river known as Ganga Maata or Mother Ganges is revered as a goddess whose purity cleanses the sins of the faithful and aids the dead on their path toward heaven. In most Hindu families, a vial of water from the Ganga is kept in every house. It is believed that drinking water from the Ganga with one’s last breath will take the soul to heaven. Hindus also believe life is incomplete without bathing in the Ganga at least once in their lifetime. Some of the most important Hindu festivals and religious congregations are celebrated on the banks of the river Ganga such as the Kumbh Mela or the Kumbh Fair and the Chhat Puja. Kumbh Mela is the largest religious gathering on Earth for Hindu peoples, where around 70 million Hindus from around the world participated in the last Kumbh Mela at the Hindu Holy city Prayaga (also known as Allahabad).
The upper Ganges supplies water to extensive irrigation works. The river passes the holy bathing sites at Haridwar, Allahabad (where the Yamuna river enters the Ganges), and Varanasi. Below Allahabad the Ganges becomes a slow, meandering stream with shifting channels. Because of its location near major population centers, however, the river is highly polluted. The Ganges collects large amounts of human pollutants as it flows through highly populous areas. These populous areas, and other people down stream, are then exposed to these potentially hazardous accumulations.
Ganga India’s national river
The mighty Ganga is not only the river but much more to the millions for whom the Ganga is a symbol of faith, hope, substance and sanity. Therefore the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared on November 4, 2008 that henceforth the Ganga would be known as India’s ‘national river’.
The Prime minister has also announced the proposal to set up a separate high powered Ganga River Basin Authority to stop its pollution and degradation. Chaired by the Prime minister, the authority would have as the members the chief ministers of states through which the river flows, besides working closely with ministers of water resources, environment and forests, urban development and others as well as agencies working on river conservation and pollution management.
Source of Ganga River
In the Uttarakhand Himalayas where glacial water flowing from a cave at Gaumukh, is the origin of the Bhagirathi river. Gaumukh has been described as a desolate place at an altitude of about 4,000 meters (13,000 feet). Twenty-three kilometers from Gaumukh, the river reaches Gangotri, the first town on its path. Thousands of visitors come to Gangotri each year, from every part of the world. The river which joins the Alaknanda river at Devaprayag, also in the Uttarakhand Himalayas, to form the Ganga. The Ganga then flows through the Himalayan valleys and emerges into the north Indian plain at the town of Haridwar.
Recent pictures taken by Google Earth via satellite have confirmed that an eight-km stretch of the Bhagirathi river has dried up. The river is shown snaking through the Himalayan mountains as one long, sandy stretch minus any water. Other rivers emanating from the Gangotri glacier, including the Bhilangana, the Assi Ganga and the Alaknanda, all tributaries of the Ganga river, are also drying up.
Since the river Ganga (Bhagirathi) is still emanating from the ice cave (Gaumukh) of Gangotri Glacier, no steps are required to be taken at present for bringing back the flow of river Ganga. As far as the recession of the glacier is concerned it is a part of natural phenomena and cannot be stopped by using short term artificial measures. This information was given by Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Shri Kapil Sibal, in a written reply to a question by Shri Vijoy Krishna in the Lok Sabha on April 29, 2008.
Ganga River in plains
On its 1,560-mi (2,510-km) course in plains, Ganga flows southeast through the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal. The Ganga passing some of the most populous cities of India, including Kanpur , Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, and Kolkata. The Yamuna, which originates less than a hundred miles east of the Bhagirathi, flows parallel to the Ganga and a little to the south for most of its course before merging with the Ganga at the holy city of Allahabad, also known as Triveni Sangam. New Delhi, capital of India, and Agra, site of the Taj Mahal, are two of the major cities on the Yamuna river.
The largest tributary to the Ganga is the Ghaghara, which meets it before Patna,
in Bihar, bearing much of the Himalayan glacier melt from Northern Nepal. The Gandak, which comes from near Katmandu, is another big Himalayan tributary. Other important rivers that merge with the Ganga are the Son, which originates in the hills of Madhya Pradesh, the Gomti which flows past Lucknow, and then meets with the river Chambal.
On its way it passes the towns of Mirzapur, Varanasi, Patna and Bhagalpur. At Bhagalpur, the river meanders past the Rajmahal Hills, and beings to change course southwards. At Pakaur, the river begins its first attrition with the branching away of its first distributary, the River Bhagirathi, which goes on to form the River Hooghly. Close to the border with Bangladesh, the Farakka Barrage, built in 1974 controls the flow of the Ganges, diverting some of the water into a feeder canal linking the Hooghly to keep it relatively silt free.
After entering Bangladesh, the main branch of the Ganges is known as Padma River
till it is joined by the Jamuna River the largest distributaries of the Brahmaputra. Further downstream, the Ganges is fed by the Meghna River, the second largest distributaries of the Brahmaputra and takes on its name. Fanning out into the 350 km (220 mi) wide Ganges Delta, it empties out into the Bay of Bengal. The delta of the Ganga, or rather, that of the Hooghly and the Padma, is a vast ragged swamp forest (42,000 sq km) called the Sunderbans.
Pollution in Ganga River
Today, over 29 cities, 70 towns, and thousands of villages extend along the Ganges’ banks. Nearly all of their sewage – over 1.3 billion liters per day – goes directly into the river, along with thousands of animal carcasses, mainly cattle. Another 260 million liters of industrial waste are added to this by hundreds of factories along the river’s banks. Municipal sewage constitutes 80 per cent by volume of the total waste
dumped into the Ganges, and industries contribute about 15 percent. The majority of the Ganges pollution is organic waste, sewage, trash, food, and human and animal remains. Over the past century, city populations along the Ganges have grown at a tremendous rate, while waste-control infrastructure has remained relatively unchanged. Recent water samples collected in Varanasi revealed fecal-coliform counts of about 50,000 bacteria per 100 milliliters of water, 10,000% higher than the government standard for safe river bathing. The result of this pollution is an array of water-borne diseases including cholera, hepatitis, typhoid and amoebic dysentery. An estimated 80% of all health problems and one-third of deaths in India are attributable to water-borne diseases.
The sacred practice of depositing human remains in the Ganges also poses health threats because of the unsustainable rate at which partially cremated cadavers are dumped. In Varanasi, some 40,000 cremations are performed each year, most on wood pyres that do not completely consume the body. Along with the remains of these traditional funerals, there are thousands more who cannot afford cremation and whose bodies are simply thrown into the Ganges. In addition, the carcasses of thousands of dead cattle, which are sacred to Hindus, go into the river each year. An inadequate cremation procedures contributes to a large number of partially burnt or unburnt corpses floating down the Ganga.
The industrial pollutants also a major source of contamination in the Ganges. A total of 146 industries are reported to be located along the river Ganga between Rishikesh and Prayagraj. 144 of these are in Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) and 2 in Uttrakhand. The major polluting industries on the Ganga are the leather industries, especially near Kanpur, which use large amounts of Chromium and other toxic chemical waste, and much of it finds its way into the meager flow of the Ganga. From the plains to the sea, pharmaceutical companies, electronics plants, textile and paper industries, tanneries, fertilizer manufacturers and oil refineries discharge effluent into the river. This hazardous waste includes hydrochloric acid, mercury and other heavy metals, bleaches and dyes, pesticides, and polychlorinated biphenyls highly toxic compounds that accumulate in animal and human tissue.
However, industry is not the only source of pollution. Sheer volume of waste – estimated at nearly 1 billion litres per day – of mostly untreated raw sewage – is a significant factor. Runoff from farms in the Ganges basin adds chemical fertilizers and pesticides such as DDT, which is banned in the United States because of its toxic and carcinogenic effects on humans and wildlife. Damming the river or diverting its water, mainly for irrigation purposes, also adds to the pollution crisis.
Ganga action plan
The Ganga Action Plan (GAP) was initiated by the late Prime Minster Indira Gandhi, who called for a comprehensive survey of the situation in 1979. In 1985, the government of India launched the Ganga Action Plan, which was devised to clean up the river in selected areas by installing sewage treatment plants and threatening fines and litigation against industries that pollute.
The 2006 official audit of the Ganga Action Plan has revealed that it has met only 39 per cent of its sewage
treatment target. Moreover, the plan is behind schedule by over 13 years. According to the legal counsel, Central Pollution Control Board, Mr Vijay Panjawani, even after spending Rs 24,000 crore, the Ganga remains as dirty as ever.
A total of Rs.740.11 crore has been released to different States so far for implementation of schemes for the river Ganga under Ganga Action Plan (GAP). The GAP Phase – I, the first attempt of the Government of India to undertake pollution abatement works in the river Ganga, was launched in the year 1985 with the objective of treating 882 million litres per day (mld) of sewage and improving its water quality to bathing class standards. This Phase was declared completed in March, 2000 with the creation of sewage treatment apacity of 865 mld. Since GAP Phase – I did not cover the pollution load of Ganga fully, GAP Phase – II which includes plans for its major tributaries namely, Yamuna, Gomti, Damodar and Mahananda, besides Ganga, was approved in stages from 1993 onwards. The above two phases of Ganga Action Plan have continued since their inception with GAP-I having been completed in 2000 and GAP-II is presently under implementation.
A total of 146 industries are reported to be located along the river Ganga between Rishikesh and Prayagraj. 144 of these are in Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) and 2 in Uttrakhand. Of the grossly polluting industries in U.P., 82 industries have installed Effluent Treatment Plants (ETPs) and are reported to be complying with the standards, 27 industries, though have installed ETPs are not reported to be complying with the prescribed standards and 35 industries are reported to have been closed. The Central Pollution Control Board has issued directions to the State Pollution Control Boards under Section 18 1(b) of Water Act, 1974 for taking appropriate legal action against the defaulting industries. In the State of Uttrakhand, of the 2 Grossly Polluting Industries, one is reported to have installed the ETP and the other is reported to have been closed. As regards the number of drains falling into the river in the towns covered under the Ganga Action Plan and number of identified Gross Polluting Industries which discharge their effluent in the river between Rishikesh and Prayagraj, the same is given in the Annexure.
GAP Phase-I was declared closed in March, 2000. Since GAP Phase-I did not cover the pollution load of Ganga fully, GAP Phase II which included Plans for Yamuna, Gomti, Damodar and Mahananda besides Ganga was approved in various stages from 1993 onwards. The present sanctioned cost of works for Ganga river (main stem) under GAP Phase-II is Rs.564 crore against which an amount of Rs.373.58 crore has been released to the State Implementing Agencies. Out of a total of 311 schemes sanctioned, 185 schemes have been completed so far and the balance schemes are in different stages of implementation.
A citizen-based Sankat Mochan Foundation, started in Varanasi in 1982, has made great strides toward a lasting clean-up of the Ganges. With a dual identity as Hindu priest and civil engineer, the organization’s founder, Veer Bhadra Mishra, has approached the problem from both a scientific and a spiritual perspective. In collaboration with engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, Mishra has proposed an alternative sewage-treatment plan for Varanasi that is compatible with the climate and conditions of India. The advanced integrated wastewater oxidation pond system would store sewage in a series of ponds and use bacteria and algae to break down waste and purify the water.
On June 23, 2008 West Bengal has been allocated Rs 249.68 crore under the second phase of Ganga Action Plan, (GAP-II) to cover 196 schemes in 31 towns of the state as part of the ongoing efforts to clean up the River Ganga. The schemes devised by GAP-II, which now falls under the National River Conservation Development (NRCD), would include interception and diversion of raw sewage, construction of sewage treatment plants, crematoria, river front development, afforestation and public participation. The GAP was a programme launched by the Centre in April 1985 in order to reduce the pollution load on the river Ganga.
The Ganga is mentioned in the Rig-Veda, the earliest of the Hindu scriptures. The Ganga is mentioned in the nadistuti (Rig Veda 10.75), which lists the rivers from east to west. In RV 6.45.31, the word Ganga is also mentioned, but it is not clear if the reference is to the river.RV 3.58.6 says that “your ancient home, your auspicious friendship, O Heroes, your wealth is on the banks of the Jahnavi (JahnAvyAm)”. This verse could possibly refer to the Ganga. In RV 1.116.18-19, the Jahnavi and the Gangetic dolphin occur in two adjacent verses.
During the early Indo-Aryan Ages, the Indus and the Saraswati were the major rivers, not the Ganga. But the later three Vedas seem to give much more importance to the Ganga, as shown by its numerous references. According to the Hindu Purans, Goddess Ganga used to exist only in Heaven. Then prince Bhagirath worshipped Ganga to descend on earth. This is why Ganga is also known as Bhagirathi. In the Mahabharath this story is also mentioned. In fact, Ganga is a major character in the Mahabharath, where she’s the mother of Bhisma.
Another version of the myth tells us that Ganga descended to earth to purify the souls of the 60,000 sons of
an ancient ruler, King Sagara, who had been burnt to ashes by an enraged ascetic.
Ganga in Hindu religion
According to Hindus the river Ganga is sacred. It is worshipped by Hindus and personified as a goddess, who holds an important place in the Hindu religion. Hindu belief holds that bathing in the river on certain occasions causes the forgiveness of sins and helps attain salvation. Many people believe that this will come from bathing in Ganga at any time. People travel from distant places to immerse the ashes of their kin in the waters of the Ganga; this immersion also is believed to send the ashes to heaven. Several places sacred to Hindus lie along the banks of the river Ganga, including Haridwar and Kashi. People carry sacred water from the Ganges that is sealed in copper pots after making the pilgrimage to Kashi. It is believed that drinking water from the Ganga with one’s last breath will take the soul to heaven.
Hindus also believe life is incomplete without bathing in the Ganga at least once in their lifetime.
In most Hindu families, a vial of water from the Ganga is kept in every house. This is done because it is auspicious to have water of the Holy Ganga in the house, and also if someone is dying, that person will be able to drink its water. Many Hindus believe that the water from the Ganga can cleanse a person’s soul of all past sins, and that it can also cure the ill. The ancient scriptures mention that the water of Ganges carries the blessings of the Lord’s feet. Hence mother Ganges is also known as Visnupadi (Emanating from the Lotus feet of Supreme Lord Sri Visnu). Some of the most important Hindu festivals and religious congregations are celebrated on the banks of the river Ganga such as the Kumbh Mela or the Kumbh Fair and the Chhat Puja.
Around 70 million Hindus from around the world participated in Kumbh Mela at the Hindu Holy city Prayaga (also known as Allahabad). The most important city sacred to Hinduism on the banks of the River Ganga is Varanasi or Banaras. It has hundreds of temples along the banks of the Ganga which often get flooded during the rains. This city, especially along the banks of the Ganga, is an important place of worship for the Hindus as well as a cremation ground.
The most controversial Tehri dam is the main dam of the Tehri Hydro Project on the rivers Bhagirathi (one of the major tributary of the river Ganga) located near Tehri in Uttarakhand. It is a multi purpose river valley project, towering 855 feet (261 m). The main dam at Tehri is the 8th tallest dam in the world. The dam’s projected capabilities include a power generation capacity of 2400 MW, irrigation stabilization to an area of 6,000 km², an additional area of 2,700 km² of irrigation stabilization and a supply of 270 million gallons (1.23 million cubic metres) of drinking water to industrialized cities in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The dam project was approved in 1972 and construction was started in 1978. The dam is operational since July 2006. Until March 2008, a sum of Rs 8,298 crore had been spent on the dam, far outweighing the initial planned costs. Its projected power generating capacity was 2,400 MW. Currently, it is generating only 1,000 MW, less than half its capacity.
According to Hindu mythology, river Bhagirathi is the actual Ganga, though the name of Ganga is assumed only after the river Bhagirathi meets river Alaknanda at Devprayag. Cutting off the water supply of Bhagirathi to such low quantity means that after travelling more than 80 km from this point, water of Bhagirathi will be hardly reaching Ganga. It is predicted that after 20 years the mighty Ganga will be reduced to a trickle and cease to exist for the 150 million people in this region.
The Tehri dam is located in the Central Himalayan Seismic Gap, a major geologic fault zone. This region was the site of a magnitude 6.8 earthquake in October 1991, epicentred 50 km from the location of the dam.
The Kumbh Mela, the largest religious gathering on earth, is held every 12 years on the banks of the Triveni Sangam – the confluence of the holy rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. The Mela alternates between Nasik, Allahabad, Ujjain and Haridwar every three years. The one celebrated at the Holy Sangam in Allahabad is the largest and holiest of them. The Mela is attended by millions of devotees, including Sadhus. A holy dip in the sacred waters is believed to cleanse the soul.
The Ardh or ‘half Kumbh’ Mela, is held every six years on the banks of Sangam. Second only to the Kumbh in sanctity, the Ardh Kumbh also attracts devotes in the millions, from all over the world. Magh Mela is an annual event held at the Sangam.
In Hindu religion Kumbh is the symbol of spiritual awakening. It is the symbol of the confluence of nature and humanity. Kumbh is the source of all energy. Kumbh makes humankind realize this world and the other, sins and blessings, wisdom and ignorance, darkness and light.
The flora and fauna found along Ganga banks are vital to nutrient and water conservation, and control of soil erosion. 451 million people living in its basin are directly and indirectly dependent upon the Ganga. Watered by the monsoons, this silt-enriched land produces a significant portion of the rice, wheat, millet, sugar, and barley needed to feed the world’s second most populous nation. The rain feds the land, dilutes the river’s muddy stream, flushes out excess sediment and suspended matter, and revitalizes the river where its flow was sluggish. The Ganges and its tributaries provide a perennial source of irrigation to a large area. The Ganges can swell a thousand-fold during the monsoons.
Haridwar, Allahabad, and Varanasi are the the source of tourism and attract thousands of pilgrims to its waters. Thousands of Hindu pilgrims arrive at these three towns to take a dip in the Ganges, which is believed to cleanse oneself of sins and help attain salvation.
The Ganga has been described by the World Wildlife Fund as one of the world’s top ten rivers at risk. It has over 140 fish species, 90 amphibian species, and five areas which support birds found nowhere else in the world. According to studies reported by environmental engineer D.S. Bhargava of the University of Roorkee, the Ganges decomposes organic waste 15 to 25 times faster than other rivers. The Ganges has an extraordinarily high rate of reaeration, the process by which it absorbs atmospheric oxygen. When organic waste is dropped into it, as much as 60 per cent of the BOD is processed within an hour. The water quality samples also suggest that the Ganges retains DO much longer than does water from other rivers.
In a recent finding, the scientists have observed that various species of fishes which helped in keeping the river water clean are facing extinction. In its place, numerous marine species are thriving in the river. Marine species like Sea Bass, Rostellascaris, Xenentodon Cancilla, Clarius Gariepinus or Thai Magur have been found in the fresh water of Ganga in Allahabad and its surrounding districts.
Ganga delta and Ganga in sea
The delta of the Ganga, or rather, that of the Hooghly and the Padma, is a vast ragged swamp forest (42,000 sq km) called the Sundarbans the world’s largest delta , home of the Royal Bengal Tiger. The river courses in the delta are broad and active, carrying a vast amount of water. On the seaward side of the delta are swamplands and tidal forests called Sunderbans which are protected conservation areas in both Indian and Bangladeshi law. The peat found in the delta is used for fertilizer and fuel. The water supply to the river depends on the rains brought by the monsoon winds from July to October and the melting snow from the Himalayas during the period from April to June. The delta also experiences strong cyclonic storms before and after the monsoon season which can be devastating.
The delta used to be densely forested and inhabited by many wild animals. Today, however, it has become intensely cultivated to meet the needs of the growing population and many of the wild animals have disappeared. The Royal Bengal Tiger still lives in the Sunderbans and kills about 30 villagers every year. There remains high fish populations in the rivers which provides an important part of the inhabitants’ diet. Bird life in the Ganges basin is also prolific.
Ganga in Kolkata
The main branch of the Ganges, the Padma, passes through the Farraka Barrage, a gigantic barrier designed to divert the Ganges waters into the Indian Hooghly branch, and away from the Padma. Completed by the Indian government in the early 1970s, it was intended to help flush out the increasing silt deposits in the Hooghly, to improve navigation, and to provide Kolkata with irrigation and drinking water.
About 150 large industrial plants are lined up on the banks of the Hooghly at Kolkata. Together, these plants contribute 30 percent of the total industrial effluent reaching the mouths of the Ganges. Of this, half comes from pulp and paper industries, which discharge a dark brown, oxygen-craving slurry of bark and wood fiber, mercury and other heavy metals which accumulate in fish tissues, and chemical toxins like bleaches and dyes, which produce dioxin and other persistent compounds.
CNN-IBN-Outlook State of the Environment Poll has found that 77 per cent people have voted cleaning of rivers by government as the top priority. The findings are especially significant in Kolkata as its main river Hooghly is congested with solid waste and effluents. It is said that the character of a city is best judged by how well it maintains its sea or river front.
Kosi River – The Sorrow of Bihar
The River Kosi also called the sorrow of Bihar is one of the largest tributaries of river Ganga. After flowing 58 km in Nepal, it enters the north Bihar plains near Bhimnagar and after another 260 km , flows into the Ganges near Kursela. The river travels a distance of 729 km from its source to the confluence with the Ganga. Due the current floods in Kosi river, the situation in Bihar is the worst witnessed for hundreds of years.
Now Ganga threatened by Expressway
Lucknow, January 14, 2008: The UP state government will select a developer for the ambitious Rs 30,000- crore Ganga Expressway project within a couple of days after a committee submits a report to the state Cabinet. Financial bids from five companies for developing the 1,047-km project, linking Noida and Ballia, have been referred to an empowered committee headed by the chief secretary, state Industrial Development Commissioner. The expressway promises to reduce travel time from Ballia to Noida to about 10 hours.
Ganga Expressway is anti-Hindu, says BJP and it will hurt Hindu sentiments by compounding pollution in the Ganga. “Ganga is the most sacred river to every Hindu. But the project that entails development of industrial pockets edging the 1,047-km Greater Noida to Ballia expressway will aggravate the pollution in the river. We will fight out the Expressway both on streets as well as in state legislature,” state BJP president Ramapati Ram Tripathi told mediapersons. “Till now, industrial units and leather tanneries in Kanpur were dumping pollutants into the river, but industrial pockets along the expressway will result in more industrial effluents flowing freely into the Ganga,” he added. The state party president further said, “We will not let the project take off as it will not only pollute the sacred river, but also result in widespread displacement of rural population as well as destruction of agriculture by converting farmers into landless labourers. Other opposition parties including the Congress and the Samajwadi Party, are also planning to protest against the expressway. The CPI leaders said that thousands of acres of fertile land in UP was being acquired for the Ganga Expressway project that was bound to render thousands of farmers homeless and jobless.
Ganga threatened by climate change
The Ganga is also one of the rivers most threatened by climate change. According to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (The UN Climate Change Conference in Bali) looking at the threat from climate change to human development and the environment, “only the polar icecaps hold more fresh water than the Himalayan glaciers”: “If the current trends of climate change continue, by 2030 the size of the glaciers could be reduced by as much as 80 per cent,” warns the report, titled “Up in Smoke — Asia and the Pacific”, released here in November 2007.
Some of India’s most important rivers are fed by the Himalayan glaciers. But rising temperatures means that many of the Himalayan glaciers are melting fast due to Global Warming and could diminish significantly over the coming decades with catastrophic results. In the long run, the water flow in the Ganges could drop by two-thirds, affecting more than 400 million people who depend on it for drinking water. The report warns that in the short term the rapid melting of ice high up in the Himalayas might cause river swelling and floods. The formation of
glacial lakes of melt-water creates the threat of outburst floods leading to devastation in lowland valleys.
Ganga a national heritage
On September 22, 2008 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has assured giving river Ganga a national heritage status, a statement by the Hardwar-based Ganga Raksha Manch said. The prime minister pledged to revive the glory of the river and look into the issue of pollution in the river along its stretch from upper reaches in Hardwar to Ganga Sagar in the Bay of Bengal. More than 300 people held a rally on September 18 organised by the Ganga Raksha Manch, whose convenor is Swami Ramdev to demand that the river be declared a national heritage. The rallysist submitted a letter to President Pratibha Patil with a list of
The first PM of India Pandit Jawaharla Nehru said: “The Ganga especially is the river of India’s age-long culture and civiastion, ever changing., ever flowing, and yet ever the same Ganga.” Ganga is both goddess and river. The name of Ganga appears twice in the Rig Veda, references in Puranas, Valmiki Ramayana, Devi Bhagavatam, Mahabharata and Hindu religious Granthas as mother Ganga. .
In other parts of the world great rivers have been referred to as mothers. Volga is Mat Rodanya that is Mother of land. Ireland’s river Boyne is worshiped as a goddess, The Thai river is Mae-nau taht is Water Mother. In ancient Egypt the Nile was considered as the tears of Goddess Isis.
Save Ganga campaign
NEW DELHI, August 18, 2008: A group of 250 spiritual heads representing most of the religious sects and Hindu organisations across India on Sunday launched the Save the Ganga campaign in the capital. The campaign, Awiral Ganga, Nirmal Ganga: From Gangotri to Ganga Sagar, aims to clean up the river right from its source in the Himalayas to where it drains into the Bay of Bengal at Ganga Sagar in West Bengal by reducing pollution and demanding national heritage status for the river.