Adopting a multi-pronged strategy to tackle river pollution in Maharashtra, the state government, while pledging to make higher budgetary allocations, has decided to preserve and rejuvenate the state’s rivers by enforcing stringent laws to prevent dumping of untreated solid waste and undertaking a plantation drive. Guidelines are being reworked on putting a cap on construction activities along river fronts and following stringent norms. An integrated policy to revive rivers and make them pollution-free is underway. Desilting of rivers that have shrunk has also been included in the plans.
A senior secretary said: “Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is keen on pushing a wholistic policy involving the Ministry of Urban Development, Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Water Resources and Ministry of Finance. The state government believes that tackling river pollution cannot be confined to a handful of rivers. Instead, they should launch the project across all the rivers in Maharashtra.”
While at the Centre, the focus is on Ganga cleaning, the state government’s approach is to tackle pollution in all the 302 rivers across 36 districts. There are 49 major river stretches, which are the most-effected, including the Krishna, Godavari, Tapi, Wardha-Wainganga, Panchganga, Koyana, Mula, Mutha and Pravara. The state government is pushing public-private partnership modules to raise funds for the river rejuvenation projects.
While raising concern over the high degree of pollution, the chief minister said: “Almost 85 per cent of river pollution is caused due to untreated solid waste and not industrial effluents. Therefore, we have to make sewage treatment mandatory. Untreated solid waste cannot be allowed to flow into the rivers.”
The water resources proposal under consideration suggests the recycling of water for agriculture and treatment of water by local bodies before allowing it to flow into rivers. However, the state government’s foremost concern is to make sewage treatment commercially viable.
Allowing municipal corporations and councils to sell treated water to industries and for agriculture is also recommended. It is expected to help recover the cost of operating sewage treatment plants and also create funds that could be utilised for river preservation.
Water expert Madhav Chitale advocated greater participation of local bodies and villages in the river rejuvenation mission. “The river cleaning drive cannot become a success without the help of local bodies and the participation of villages through which the rivers pass,” Chitale said.