86 years old Swami Gyan Swaroop Sanand is on a fast unto death since 22 June, 2018 in Haridwar demanding a law for conservation of river Ganga but the Central government has not taken a step to convince him to give up his fast. This raises question on the intention of government. It appears that the government is deliberately ignoring Swami Sanand’s fast. Let us not forget that young seer Swami Nigmanand died on the 115th day of his fast demanding halt to illegal mining in Ganga in 2011.
Swami Sanand is not merely a religious person. He was known as Professor G.D. Agarwal before he became a saint. He has served at Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and as Member-Secretary, Central Pollution Control Board and is responsible for putting into place a number of pollution related norms.
Ganga couldn’t be cleaned after Rs. 500 crores were spent as part of Ganga Action Plan. The present government has proposed a budget of Rs. 20,000 for the Namami Gange project, of which Rs. 7,000 have already been spent. Swami Sanand says that Ganga would not be cleaned because the present government is following a similar programme as the past governments.
The capacity of Common Effluent Treatment Plants and Sewage Treatment Plants to clean industrial waste and sewage produced by cities, respectively, is simply not enough to handle all the wastes generated and whatever capacity has been built is not always functional. For example, against the 400 Million Litres per Day of sewage generated in Varanasi city, the built capacity of STPs is only one-fourth. Bhagwanpur plant, near Banares Hindu University, has a capacity of 8 MLD, Deenapur plant has a capacity of 80 MLD and Konia plant has a capacity of 150-200 MLD but works at only 30-40% of its capacity. Among these the Bhagwanpur plant works best but its capacity is minuscule compared to total sewage generated. Two more STPs are now under construction. When the plants are out of order or there is no electricity, the waste flows directly into the river untreated.
Assi river, which looks more like a drainage, and parts of it have been completely covered to actually make it a drainage, discharges 80 MLD of untreated sewage and Varuna river with 80-90 MLD of sewage discharges 75-80% of it untreated into Ganga. Parts of Assi and Varuna, two rivers from whom the city derives its name, are also used by Nagar Nigam as landfills. Seepage from these garbage heaps also pollutes the rivers.
Kanpur city produces 600 MLD of sewage and industrial waste whereas the built capacity to treat waste is hardly 200-250 MLD.
Corruption also has a role to play in this pollution. Employees of Municipal Corporation or State Pollution Control Boards, responsible for looking after the CETPs, allow the industrial waste to directly flow into the river bypassing the treatment plants by accepting bribes. When the manufacturing units increase their production capacity they don’t inform the PCBs officially. The extra waste generated is also allowed to join the river in exchange for bribes.
For example, none of the CETPs built in Ahmedabad are functional, reason for the extremely polluted water of Sabarmati river downstream of city. The water itself comes from Narmada canal as upstream from the city the river has dried up.
Only the contractors benefit from construction of STPs and CETPs. Government’s motivation to clean Ganga seems lacking and therefore Swami Sanand has sat on a fast unto death to demand a law for conservation of the river.
It is shocking that the government is not taking Swami Sanand’s fast seriously and neither is the media giving coverage to the fast, most likely at the behest of government. This is in spite of the fact that Narendra Modi declared when he went to contest the election from Varanasi that he had got a call from mother Ganga. After he took over as Prime Minister the name of Water Resources ministry was changed to include ‘Ganga Rejuvenation’ in it, as if there were no other rivers in the country.
Is it the famed Indian culture which Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh boasts off that just as Naremdra Modi-Amit Shah duo has marginalised senior leaders of Bhartiya Janata Parrty, they are now undervaluing Swami Sanand’s fast and will not have any qualms if he dies? Does the government, so worried about saving cows’ lives, not give priority to saving a Sadhu’s life?
Acquaintances of Swami Sanand are appalled at the way he has been left to die. If there is any sensitivity left in the government it should immediately enter into dialogue with Swami Sanand to end his fast and agree to make a law for conservation of not just Ganga but all water bodies of the entire country.
Sandeep Pandey is a social activist e-mail: email@example.com