Prof. Vinod Tare, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and Co-ordinator, Ganga River Basin Management Plan.
Shri Paritosh Tyagi , Former Chairman, Central Pollution Control Board, New Delhi
Prof. Rashid Siddiqi , Expert Member, NGRBA, Govt. of India
Dr. Mohan Singh Rawat ( Gaonwasi) Ex Minister, Uttrakhand
Shri Vijay Panjwani, Advocate, Supreme Court
Dr. Shyam Asolekar, IIT, Mumbai
Dr. A.K. Gosain, IIT,New Delhi
Dr. Rakesh Khosa, IIT,Delhi
Dr. Y.P.S. Suri, IIT, New Delhi
Dr S.K. Gupta, IIT, New Delhi
Shri Nitin Kaushal, WWF
Mr. Hemant Dhyani, Ganga Avahan, Uttarkashi
Mr. Vijay Kaul, Chatanalaya, New Delhi.
A number of other persons were also present in this seminar.
Smt Tara Gandhi Bhatacharjee Vice-Chairperson, Gandhi Smiriti & Darshan Samiti, New Delhi chaired the inaugural session; Dr. A.K. Gosain, IIT, New Delhi chaired the 1st session and Dr. Shyam Asolekar, IIT, Mumbai chaired the 2nd Session. Prof Vinod Tare, Co-ordinator of the consortium of the National Ganga River Basin Environmental Management Plan (NGRBEMP), IIT, Kanpur gave the Keynote address on the scientific and technological perspective and Sri M.C. Mehta, Noted Environmentalist & Supreme Court Advocate gave the keynote address on the legal perspective of the issue.
Summary Record of Discussions during "Save Ganga Meeting-Cum-Panel Discussion"
Mrs Rama Rauta:
1. No wastewater/ effluents from the industries treated or untreated should be allowed to flow into the river. Treated sewage water also must not be allowed into our rivers and should be used for various purposes other than drinking and cooking activities. River and Sewer must be separated. Zero pollution should be our aim.
2. The highly earth quake prone, eco-fragile, ecologically, aesthetically and religiously invaluable Uttarkhand region of the Ganga Basin must be declared "Ecological Fragile" and construction of bigdams must not be allowed in this region.
3. Ganga should be constitutionally declared as the National River.
4. There is no scarcity of money, knowledge and skills with us to save our rivers. Govt. lacks will power and morality to take up the task.
5. Development should be based on the principle of non-violence which constitutes the foundation of all ethics.
Dr. Vinod Tare:
1. FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES of Aviraldhara and Nirmaldhara
a. Aviraldhara is river flow without any obstruction and with connectivity in all directions providing space for water and aquatic life.
b. Nirmaldhara is no inflow of any polluted water, other than storm water. Pollution should be prevented from entering the storm water drain. All storm water drains should be unlined to allow recharge of groundwater. Argument that river will not have water if wastewater does not reach is totally fallacious. As far as wastewater is concerned, treated or untreated waste water should not be let into the river. It should be re-cycled and re-used as a source of water for various purposes other than drinking and cooking.
2. Recommendations on activities
a. Prohibited (pratibandhit): Drainage of treated or untreated sewage or industrial waste water into the river should be strictly prohibited
b. Restricted (anushasit): Non-point waste sources in the form of various offerings into the river should be restricted. Though enforcement agencies should be there to restrict the same, nevertheless, spiritual leaders can play a very important role by creating the necessary mass awareness to restrict pollution of the river from various non-point sources. Surely the Hindu religion does not promote disposal of offerings into the river which causes pollution.
c. Promotional: reuse and recycle of treated domestic and industrial sewage and sewage sludge derived products, promotion of organic farming, etc. in the National River Ganga Basin.
3. Talking about Yamuna river, the river during lean period is not allowed to flow below Wazirabad. All water below it is either partially treated or untreated wastewater of Delhi.
4. Even from development perspective, protection of river is in fact the basis of sustainable development. Development is possible only if we keep our rivers alive. In the contemporary scenario, drinking water is available in the form of bottled mineral water or RO treated water. Imagine the cost incurred for providing this form of drinking water to the masses considering the cost of treating waste water to convert into drinkable water is one or two paisa per liter.
5. Apollo and AIIMS have become a necessity in urban areas mainly because of neglect of water quality and sanitation. However, the entire population is penalized to pay for this 30% of population for avoidable self-caused diseases.
6. Internalize environmental cost, let zero pollution be achieved. It may increase production cost by 5%, which is affordable but in turn will save expenditures in various other forms, some of which have been mentioned above.
7. Report should be placed before the people besides the Government.
Shri M.C Mehta
1. He stressed on importance of national river internationally.
2.Declaration of the Ganga as National River should be backed with provisions that ensure due respect to her, considering her National River status.
3. In USA after declaring a river as National River, dams have been decommissioned, factories have been closed and new projects are dropped in the vicinity of the river.
4. There should be right to life for rivers as well. Right to Life is granted under the Constitution in Article 21. Health is essential for life. Hence right to life enshrined under Article 21 is not possible without good health of the river.
5. Cancer is increasing in settlements near river Ganga. Many people are suffering from cancer in Ganga basin due to their dependence on the hazardously polluted Ganga river. The pain and suffering it must be causing to the aquatic life goes unaccounted.
6. NGRBA has met only thrice in the last over four years. There is hardly any decision and whatever there is, there is no implementation of anything that gives hope.
7. Government had promised for ecological flow (16 cumec at) and declaration of ecologically sensitive area of 135 km from Gangotri. However there is no law to enforce the aforementioned promises of the Government.
8. Saints can exert a lot of influence both on government and the people.
9. It is not the case that there are not adequate environmental laws. We have the Environment Protection Act, 1986, Prevention and Control of Water Pollution Act, 1974 which clearly provide for the prevention and control of water pollution, and for the maintaining or restoring of wholesomeness of water in the country. Thus the problem is not the absence of law but the enforcement of these existing laws.
10. Water harvesting has been made mandatory as per law. However in the name of water harvesting, industrial effluent is put into groundwater.
11. Supreme Court has stated that river Ganga has become a dust bin.
12. A law on Ganga is absolutely necessary but Government is not even taking advantage of the draft prepared nearly two years ago by volunteers.
13. There should be special courts along the Ganga to deal with cases.
14. River Police should be constituted.
Shri Paritosh Tyagi:
1 No dam is necessary, decommissioning of existing dams needs examination.
2 Storage of water is possible in the hills in gorges and bowl shaped formations, which can be used for generating hydropower instead of constructing a dam and a reservoir.
3 No wastewater, treated or untreated, be allowed to flow to the river.
4 River is a living body and the same principles apply regarding its health as those applicable to human beings
Smt Tara Gandhi Bhattacharya:
Smt Tara Gandhi Bhattacharyaji chaired the inaugural session: Following are the points she made:
1. Pollution of mind is the root cause of pollution of environment including pollution of rivers. Due importance should be given to remove our mental impurities which only we human beings have.
2. Ganga does not need a certificate of holiness from government.
3. Although the ministers who had confirmed their participation could not come due to the meeting of Prime Minister, they should have sent the secretaries or some representatives to participate in the Save Ganga Function.
H.H. Swami Chidanand Muni ji.
1. He insisted that existing law can and should be enforced and saints and preachers should own responsibility.
2. High Court, Allahabad ordered for Green Kumbh and with 2013 Kumbh, a beginning has been made.
3. There should be plan for green pilgrimage and green tourism and the country should have Eco-Kashi, Eco-Prayag, etc.
4. Time has come for action and to prepare an action plan. A grand plan for government and a ground plan for people.
5. Do not use leather, tanneries and their effluent will vanish?
6. There should be Akhara Social Responsibility and Kumbh Environmental Management Plan.
7. He said that in Kumbh, saints have decided that their bodies will be cremated not be given jalsamadhi.
8. He showed a film which essentially focused on issues such as pollution caused due to polythene bags, sewage and cascading hazardous effects of big dams constructed on eco-fragile Himalayan region due to some major earth quake in the highly seismic zone of the Himalaya region of the Ganga Basin. The film also envisaged on solutions and suggestions such as ban on plastic bags, bio-toilets, zero discharge of treated/untreated sewage and industrial waste and alternative ways of energy production other than construction of big dams. The alternative methods include: Solar energy, Micro-Hydro power projects, Bio-methanationetc.He said that our pilgrim places have become so polluted that even God Shri Ram would not enter Ayodhya
9. He agreed with Advocate MC Mehta, that there should be Right to Life for the national river.
Dr A.K Merchant, Bahai
1. Dr AK merchant said that the Bahai community would fully support Save Ganga Movement.
2. The Bahai community has already started its effort on Sewage treatment and recycling plant at Lotus Temple and alternative sources of energy such as solar energy is utilized.
H.H. Devkinandan Thakur ji, Preacher (Katha Vachak)
1. Swami Devkinandan Thakur ji talked about his involvement with saving Yamuna river from excessive pollution
2. He had organized an andolan for saving Yamuna in the month of March and many young people participated in it.
3. He is dedicated towards the cause of saving Yamuna and Ganga in his capacity and has always preached against throwing religious waste into the river; however media has a tendency of ignoring good acts of religious people.
4. He envisaged that Yamuna should receive same attention as Ganga. After passing through Delhi, Yamuna is merely a sewage carrier.
5. He said that he has come across many devotees from US, desiring that after their death their ashes should be dispersed into the holy Ganga. However, his concern is that the actual water from Yamuna and Ganga is vanishing.
6. He insisted that the Save Ganga meeting has so many important dignitaries from various spheres, and if they unite to put pressure on the government, the Prime Minister would be forced to take action in the interest of saving our holy rivers Ganga and Yamuna.
H.H. Swami NikhalanandJi, Chinmaya Mission
1. He was particularly very impressed with Dr Tare's explanation defining the meaning of AVIRAL Ganga and NIRMAL Ganga
2. Chinmaya mission fully supports the demand of zero discharge of treated/untreated sewage and industrial effluents into our rivers
3. He said that even God has designed arteries and veins as separate channels for carrying pure and impure blood respectively. Keeping river and sewer separate would be in accordance to God's design.
4. There is no choice but saving Ganga. His Guruji Swami Chinmayananda always said that ‘What we know has to be done, we should just do it.' We should chalk down the actions that needed to be done and put the pressure on Govt. to just do it.
Prof. A.K. Gosain chaired the second session.
Following are his comments:
1. Basin should be considered rather than stream.
2. Groundwater should feed river, now reverse is happening.
3. Think out of box, utilize modern technologies, carry stakeholders.
H.H. Acharya Lokesh Muni ji (Jain Muni)
1. We can be ignored if we approach the Govt. at individual level.However, if we get united for this great cause of making Ganga aviral and nirmal, the Govt will be bound to take corrective measures for saving our rivers.
2. He further gave example that a straw is blown away by wind, but a bundle of straws that makes a broom can sweep away filth.
3. Ganga and Yamuna are heritage of India and not of any religion.
4. He and his organization are fully in support of all the demands by Save Ganga Movement of which his organization is also a part.
H.H. Swami Kailashanandji, Mahamandaleshwar
1. Lord Krishna has said that I do not give anything to any person; I make the devotee like myself.
2. Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati represent knowledge, wisdom and devotion.
3. Ganga has been aaradhyadevi of many great ancient dynasties like suryavanshi dynasty and before starting any auspicious activity one would use Ganga jal for purity and piousness. It is in our interest to Save Ganga so that we can save humanity.
4. He said that he is in full support and would extend whatever help possible in the service of Mother Ganga.
H.H. Rishivar Shri KiritBhai, Preacher
1. Problem of Ganga is the problem of human race.
2. It is not a religious issue, it is an environmental issue. Do not give a color of Hindu faith to it.
3. Only time all of us moved together was for independence.
4. You cannot go against technology or against government when they work in the interest of people, such as generation of power. However, it should not be eco-hostile.
5. There are more mobiles in India than toilets. Sanitation is needed.
6. Not shakti always, yukti is also needed.
Dr Asolekar chaired the third session
1. With reference to MrPanjwani, he said that the pollution law frame-work is strong but enforcement of the law framework is weak.
2. Defecations using soak pit which causes grave pollution not-only to the adjacent river water but also ground water, is not just limited to Kumbh mela but to all pilgrimage places such as Pandharpur.
3. Noted that the main points of this session have been ‘River Rights' and assessment of pollution caused by using obsolete technologies such as soak pits for defecations in pilgrimage melas.
Shri Vijay Panjwani, Advocate, Supreme Court
1. Ganga belongs to the entire country, not only to Hindus, and belongs to all the religions.
2. Rivers should be regarded as a woman and should be rendered similar protection as granted by various laws for protection of women. However, we are not clear of river rightsbutit should be protected against gang-rape.
3. There should be appropriate rights for rivers analogous to human rights.
4. 6000 dead bodies found in river Yamuna in a year
5. Puja samagri should not be put into river and those wearing saffron robes should declare it.
6. Respectable safe disposal of puja samigri...which also contains chemicals because of paints etc should be addressed by the saffron leaders to the masses
7. Fecal matter lying in the soak pits in Kumbh Mela site will pollute both ground water and the river. From soak pit, there is seepage into ground water.Three crore people attended the kumbhmela on a single day. Such old technology like soak pits without any lining has been used.
8. What has been the impact of Tehri dam on water quality, hydrological regime and riverine eco-system must be found out. This topic will be pursued by him in the Supreme Court.
9. CPCB is more of an advisory board while the state pollution board has the real power.
Shri Nitin Kaushal, WWF
1. They are involved with IIT and Peoples Science Institute and were monitoring eco-flow and its pollution level in Ganga at Allahabad during Kumbh during specific bathing days.
2. The results show that water flow was within limits considering various external factors such as low demand of water for irrigation purposes during the season, rainfall, etc.
3. However, water quality has been very bad. WWF has drafted a report on the same.
Shri Vijay Kaul, Chetanalaya, New Delhi:
1. Take up small projects; take stake-holders with you; ensure that plastic bags are not used, plant trees and provide healthy environment to rag picker
2. Encourage re-cycling plants
3. Sustainable and replicative tools must always be used
4. Mountains in Kashmir are badly de-forested and streams getting degraded in Kashmir
5. River Thames was earlier very bad and one of the most polluted rivers in the world, however, in 2010 it got the award for best river
6. There should be a programme to create a cadre of ParyavaranKathavachak
7. Federation should be formed of organizations active in protecting Ganga
Concluding Remarks and Recommendations:
1. Ganga should be constitutionally declared as the National River with provisions that ensure due respect to her, considering her National River status.
2. Taking into account the important role rivers play to meet various water requirements of the masses and the danger to their life they are facing at present from various eco-hostile forces of development, we must have a law protecting River Rights and for its Implementation River Guards to prevent crimes against rivers, River Courts to try crimes against rivers.
3. No wastewater/ effluents from the industries treated or untreated should be allowed to flow into the river. Treated sewage water also must not be allowed into our rivers; wastewater should be re-cycled and re-used as a source of water for various non-drinking activities such as irrigation, industrial, non-potable domestic and commercial uses, and groundwater recharge. River and Sewer must be separated. Zero pollution should be our aim.
4. Organic farming should be promoted in a massive way for decreasing the non-point sources of pollution of rivers such as hazardous chemicals from agricultural run-off, and also for maintaining soil fertility, checking the groundwater degradation, reducing water requirement of crops, protecting human health, etc.
5. Since the utility, ecological, aesthetic and religious value of the highly earth quake prone and eco-fragile Himalayan region of the Ganga Basin is invaluable, it must be declared "Ecological Fragile" and its rivers "wild river" and all steps must be taken to protect them and the natural eco-systems they support.
Although hydropower is a form of renewable energy, construction of big dams is likely to cause massive and irreparable damage to the age old invaluable ecosystems of the Himalayan region of the Ganga Basin. Hence decision on this controversial issue must be postponed till the consortium of 7 IITs who are preparing the NGRBEMP makes a holistic scientific assessment of what would be the loss to the nation because of the loss of various benefits our nation gets from its natural eco systems, if hydropower plants are constructed. Although the benefits from the construction of hydropower plants in this region seem to be obvious, their long-term harmful results are not visible.
The Consortium of IITs, with the help of experts from outside, if necessary, should make a holistic comprehensive study about the short-term as well as long-term harmful consequences for our present generation as well as for our future generations due to construction of hydropower projects in the Himalayan region of the Ganga. The Govt. of India should provide all the necessary help for this purpose. Some of the important issues it must study are the following: (1)what would be the loss due to loss of the bactericidal, non-putrefying and self-purifying properties of the GANGAJAL; (2) what harm it would make to agriculture in the Ganga basin due to deprival of natural manure in the form of silt from this region;(3) what would be the cascade effects of the dams due to some major earth quake in this highly seismic zone;(4) duration and quantity of electric power from the hydroelectric plants taking into account the problem of impact of global warming on the Himalayan glaciers and the problem of massive silt formation in the dams in the Himalayan region of the Ganga Basin; (5) loss of biodiversity due to submergence of forests and loss of endangered and threatened terrestrial and aquatic species;(6) loss of livelihoods, medicinal plants, destruction of pasture lands, drying of local fresh water sources and damages to residential buildings/hills due to blasting, and other negative environmental consequences for local communities; (7) negative effect due to release of greenhouse gases from the reservoirs; (8)loss due to depriving our coasts of nourishing sediments and leading to coastal erosion; (9) loss from the view point of aesthetics and religion.
We must try to have a national agreement on this issue of great national and global significance through an in-depth transparent national debate on the basis of the holistic knowledge about the benefits and losses of the construction of hydropower plants in this region. Unfortunately the Government of Uttarakhand with the full support of the Government of India are proposing or promoting hundreds of hydro-electric projects on various rivers in the Uttarakhand region of the Ganga to tap their hydro-power potential although most of the expert members of NGRBA have explicitly expressed their view against it.
6. Although Shri Harish Chandra Singh Rawat, Hon'ble Minister for Water Resources, Govt. of India, Shri SriprakashJaiswal, Hon'ble Minister for Coal, Govt. of India and Dr. Karan Singh, Hon'ble Member of Parliament& President, IICR had confirmed their participation, unfortunately they could not come due to some unexpected Meeting with Hon'ble Prime Minister.
We must not allow, in the name of development, our greed for wealth and lust for luxuries to deprive the masses the various invaluable services they have been getting freely since ages from the Ganga and its tributaries and their source the Himalayas: it would be highly immoral. Protection of the Ganga, symbolizing all rivers and water bodies, and the Giriraj Himalaya, symbolizing all mountains, forests and wildlife, must be accorded highest priority in our national development process. Gandhiji rightly saw that the culture of having unlimited desires and going to the ends of the earth with the help of science and technology causing irreparable harm to earth's life sustaining eco-systems in search of their satisfaction is satanic and suicidal. Surely the message of desire-less unselfish ethical action of the Ganga-civilization has the potentiality to save the world from the impending catastrophic global ecological crises(in the form of causing pollution of air, water and soil, global warming and climate change, depletion of non-renewable natural resources, depletion of ozone layer, etc.)The seers of Ganga civilization explicitly accept that pursuit of wealth and pleasure within the limits of ethics is essential not only for the pursuit of the ultimate goal of life, but also for lasting development, prosperity and happiness in society. The prophets and seers of all great religions also claim the same.
Smt Rama Rauta
Expert Member, National Ganga River Basin Authority, Govt of India