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Feb 20, 2005
Time for a pledge to Ganga

Two decades down the line, Dr Mishra has retired from his teaching job. His science background has equipped him to investigate GAP’s 1995 claim that there had been a 70% improvement in Ganga’s health. SMF set up a simple riverside laboratory to analyse the waters, and called the bluff. [A nice profile of Dr Mishra by Brook and Gaurav Bhagat has appeared in EcoWorld and Time magazine called him a ‘Hero of the Planet’ in 1999. By the way, while at the Time page, do browse the invaluable links under “Fresh-water web resources"]. Faulty civil engineering design of treatment plants have in fact caused backflows of sewage into bathing areas. Ten years after GAP ate itself into its present comatose state, fecal matter in Varanasi’s Ghats are 3000 times the levels permissible for humans.

Dr Mishra’s credibility worldwide has enabled him to find funds and support for a people-driven action plan, called Swatcha Ganga [Clean Ganga]. Schools, community groups and villagers have joined in scientific testing and spreading awareness of Ganga’s sickness.

Ever the hydraulic engineer, Dr Mishra has joined hands with Dr William Oswald of the University of California to propose an environmentally friendly waste water treatment plan to clean a 7 km stretch of the river by Varanasi. It is based on Oswald’s work on ‘oxidation ponds’. Simply put, the idea is to settle sewage for 45 days in these ponds and using algae and bacteria, rid it of heavy metals and coliform. The treated water is then rendered fit for agriculture and pisciculture.  The system is gravity driven and uses no power. The ponds are to be located outside city limits.

The Bhagat article says,"more than 6,500 local people have signed a petition demanding the interceptor be built. Over 100,000 people have agreed to help build the dam walls for the oxidation ponds, as an act of religious devotion dedicated to cleaning the river”. There are political glitches to overcome but there seems for the first time, a people supported programme.

Close by SMF’s office, is the triple-storied house where rustic-poet Tulsi Das sat and wrote the Shri Ram Charit Manas. Mirroring the rhythmically flowing Ganga, the lilting verses of the book took the story of Ramayana to millions of unlettered folk. It is they who can put pride and dignity back into the Ganga.


It is worth our while, wherever we are, to see how we can do our bit for it. Contact details of the Swatcha Ganga movement are available at the foot of the EcoWeekly article

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