The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has dotted the length of the Ganga with red markers on a map on its website, two weeks after the National Green Tribunal had asked it to display a prominent map showing where the river water was fit for bathing and drinking.
Apart from stretches in Uttarakhand and a couple of places as the river enters Uttar Pradesh that are marked in green (fit), the CPCB has indicated that the river is unfit the whole way till it drains into the Bay of Bengal in West Bengal barring one spot at the border of UP and Bihar.
The NGT bench headed by its chairperson, Justice (retd) A K Goel, on July 27 had noted that the stretch of the river between Haridwar and Unnao in UP was unfit for drinking and bathing, and said that innocent people drank and bathed in it with reverence without knowing it may affect their health. “If cigarette packets can contain a warning saying it is ‘injurious to health’, why not the people be informed of the adverse effects (of the river water),” the NGT had said.
The CPCB terms it the ‘Sustainability of River Ganga Water’ and uses the criteria of dissolved oxygen (more than 6 mg/litre), bio-chemical oxygen demand (less than 2 mg/litre), total coliform levels (5000 most probably number per 100 ml) and pH (range between 6.5 to 8.5) to assess the health of the river.
The NGT has also set up monitoring committees for tackling other river water pollution. Justice Goel, speaking at an event Monday, said, “For river water pollution, in Ganga, Yamuna, Ghaggar, Hindon, and Sutlej, the five cases we have heard in the last one month, we have constituted committees headed by people of great repute, three retired High Court judges, one retired Green Tribunal member, and social activists and experts. Within the next 2-3 months, the committee take steps to improve quality of water, make it at least fit for irrigation.”
Noting that the CPCB website has now put a map of Ganga and showing the whole area in red, he said, “Now the success test for committee is if you are able to make the water fit for drinking. We have given them one year. These are very complex issues, I don’t assure you quick success.”