A Decade Long Struggle to Clean Ganga at Varanasi
The National River Conservation Directorate (NRCD)
NRCD was constituted in the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India some time in the first half of the decade preceding the millennium year.
- It services the National River Conservation Authority (NRCA) with Honourable Prime Minister of India in chair.
- It is in-charge to run the National River Action Plan to clean the rivers of India.
- NRCD and NRCA were created by dissolving the historical Ganga Project Directorate (GPD) and Central Ganga Authority (CGA).
- The CGA and GPD were created in February 1985 by the Government of India when Honourable Shri Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister. CGA and GPD were created to run Ganga Action Plan (GAP), the most important public welfare project of the Government of India to clean the Ganga river on which about 40% of the Indian population depends for its need of fresh water.
Ganga Action Plan (GAP) - An ambitious project of Government of India to clean Ganga river.
· Department of Environment, in December 1984, during the period when Shri Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister prepared an action plan for immediate reduction of pollution load on the river Ganga.
· The Cabinet approved the GAP (Ganga Action Plan) in April 1985 as a 100 per cent centrally sponsored scheme and made an outlay of Rs. 193 crores for its implementation. The cost of the project escalated to Rs. 462.02 crores at its completion in 1993.
· GAP aims to build necessary infrastructure to control point sources of pollution.
· GAP was launched at Varanasi on 14 June 1986 by Honourable Prime Minister of India Shri Rajiv Gandhi.
OBJECTIVES of GAP
· Pollution abatement to improve the river water quality by
a) Interception and diversion of domestic sewage
b) Treatment of sewage with the objective to make it innocuous for disposal in the environment and to effect resource recovery where feasible.
c) Control of non-point pollution from human defecation, throwing of unburnt and half burnt bodies etc.
· To conserve the bio diversity of the river and have an integrated river basin management approach.
· To undertake research in consonance with the above objectives
· To gain experience for taking up similar action plans in grossly polluted stretches of other rivers.
GAP-I in Varanasi
- In Varanasi the project was implemented between 1986 & 1993 at a cost of about Rs. 49 crores.
- GoI gave the responsibility to U.P. Govt. and U.P. Jal nigam to implement GAP.
- In 1993 the Government announced that GAP I in Varanasi has been successfully completed and that no sewage is flowing into the religious bathing areas.
- A model project worth replication in other river cities was the Government's opinion.
Varanasi Nagar Nigam - The local government (Municipality) of Varanasi.
- VNN and other local governments in their present form were created as a result of the 74th amendment of the constitution of India in 1992.
- In 1994 the U.P. state municipal laws were suitably amended in U.P. so that they conform to the 74th amendment.
- The elected House of the VNN and its elected chairperson the Mayor of Varanasi took charge of Municipality in 1995.
- A new era in municipal governance commenced in 1995.
- The following excerpts of the Indian constitution give briefly the powers and responsibilities of the VNN and other local governments of India.
243 W - This article of the constitution, as amended, provides for the powers, authority and responsibilities of Municipalities, which states:
" Subject to the provisions of this constitution , the Legislature of a state may, by law endow -
a) the municipalities with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to function as institutions of self-government and such law may contain provisions for the devolution of powers and responsibilities upon municipalities ...
b) the committees with such powers and authority as may be necessary to enable them to carry out the responsibilities conferred upon them including those in relation to the matters listed in the Twelfth Schedule.
243 ZF - Article of the constitution has a non-obstante clause, which gives precedence to Part IX-A over any inconsistent provision in any law in force relating to Municipalities immediately prior to the commencement of this Part.
Schedule XII.- The following excerpts from the Twelfth Schedule to the constitution lists some important areas which fall under the jurisdiction of municipalities.
a) Urban planning including town planning
b) Regulation of land use and construction of buildings
c) Planning of economic and social development
d) Roads and bridges
e) Water supply for domestic, industrial and commercial purposes.
f) Public health, sanitation conservancy and solid waste management.
g) Urban forestry, protection of the environment and promotion of ecological aspects
h) Burial and burial grounds, cremations, cremation grounds and electrical crematoriums.
· Thus in June 1994 one year after the Gazette notification of the 74th amendment the power and responsibility to clean Ganga devolved on VNN.
POLLUTION OF GANGA
· As per Govt. of India estimate of 1986 over 1300 mld of sewage from more than 100 cities situated along 2525 Km. length of Ganga is directly discharged into the river.
· The Fecal matter being discharged into the river has become a very serious public health problem.
· Stretches of Ganga along cities have become polluted. Bigger cities cause major pollution. In other stretches the river is clean.
· Municipalities, industrial setup responsible for pollution.
- As per the Government the pollution of the river is categorised as point source of pollution and non-point source of pollution :
- Point sources of pollution are sewer outfalls and other small and big open drains discharging sewage and other waste water directly into river. More than 90% of the total pollution of river is caused by such sewage and waste water.
- Non-point source of pollution is caused by the people directly using the river and the river face. Less than 10% of the total pollution of river is contributed by non - point source of pollution.
GAP-I in Varanasi Failed
- GAP-I was officially completed in 1993. It could not fulfill its objectives. Faulty conceptualisation, design and implementation, marred its chances of success. It failed in all the three areas : I&D, Treatment, disposal of treated effluents.
- During 1986, total sewage generation in the town was 147 MLD, out of which only 122 MLD was intercepted and diverted in GAP-I, the remaining 25 MLD was allowed to flow in Ganga.
- In GAP-I, infrastructure for interception & diversion of 122 MLD was created but treatment facility for only 102 MLD was created. 45 MLD untreated sewage was still going into Ganga.
- Presently much more raw sewage flows into Ganga. GAP-I project did not have any provision for future years. So it was unable to do its job even on the day of its completion.
- Discharge of sewage continues into the river from 30 point sources on the ghats and the by-passes of all the ghat sewage pumping stations.
- Interception, Diversion & Treatment poorly designed and dependent on electricity. It stops working everyday when electricity is out.
- Non functional during high water level in the river i.e. for five months in a year.
- No control over fecal coliform bacteria. This creates the biggest problem to public health and is a blunder of GAP-I.
- High O&M cost
Ganga water Quality in Varanasi along the Ghats
- The Faecal Coliform level in Ganga increases from 0-1000 MPN/100ml at the upstream end of the town to 1.5 million MPN/100ml at the end of the town at the confluence with the Varuna.
- The maximum level of Faecal coliform bacteria in river water fit for bathing should not be more than 500 MPN/100ml.
- The BOD level in Ganga increases from less than 1 mg/l at the upstream end of the town to more than 20 mg/l at the end of the town at the confluence with the Varuna.
- The maximum level of BOD in river water fit for bathing should not be more than 3 mg/l.
- The Ganga water is also used for Aachman (sip) for which Fecal coliforms and BOD both should be zero.
- The Ganga water at the end of Varanasi at Varuna confluence is more or less septic with practically no dissolved oxygen.
GAP-II Started - SMF invited - Prepares PFR for GAP-II for Varanasi
- GAP II started to clean Yamuna & Gomati & GoI extended it to Varanasi and other places because of faulty completion or incompletion of GAP-I there.
- Divisional Task Force met in Varanasi to plan second phase of GAP – SMF was not invited. Plans were developed to implement GAP II based on extension of GAP I technology.
- Sri Jagjit Singh Administrator of VNN in 1993 invited SMF to make a plan for GAP II.
- There were no funds available with VNN or SMFto make the plan.
- A brief prepared by SMF for GAP-II Varanasi was not enough for the Govt. to take administrative decision. A full fledged PFR was needed by the Govt.
- The SMF took it as a challenge to make PFR for second phase of Ganga Action Plan for Varanasi (GAP II). It was a work for VNN, people and Ganga.
- USAID, FOG, friends, Prof. from U.C. Berkeley, Top Engineers of India and BHU's Civil Engineering Deptt. volunteered to support SMF in the preparation of PFR for GAP-II.
- Preparation of PFR by this team took a lot of time because of resource crunch.
- The newly elected VNN and Mayor passed a resolution (resolution no.-79) in Jan. 1997 quickly after they took charge of their office after the election to support the SMF's effort to make PFR for GAP-II.
VNN accepted SMF-PFR - Sent it to NRCD & GoUP for approval and finance
- Appropriate PFR for GAP II for Varanasi was finally prepared by SMF team in 1997 and submitted to VNN.
- This PFR provides for a natural system. Interception and diversion of sewage falling into Ganga and also the disposal of the effluent coming out of the sewage treatment plant are done by gravity. No electricity and sewage pumps are required for these operations. The sewage treatment plant is a series of ponds called AIWPS. This also operates on natural forces. Extremely good quality of effluent with more or less no Fecal Coliform comes out of the plant. Safe. Inorganic Pollutants are also removed. No sludge. Safe for use in irrigation. No use of electricity other than in transferring the low lying city's sewage in the sewer to the ponds made on ground surface.
- The PFR for GAP-II made by SMF for VNN stood well the scrutiny done in a public hearing arranged by the Mayor.
- It was presented in the House of VNN and the House passed a unanimous resolution (Resolution no. 126 of May 1997) to accept this PFR for implementation in Varanasi.
- This PFR for GAP II made by SMF was forwarded by the Mayor to NRCD and U.P. Govt. for their support and release of funds for implementation.
- Salient features of this PFR are water tight interceptor sewer along ghats from Asi to Varuna, water tight interceptors along Varuna and Asi rivers and a 300 mld pond system of sewage treatment (AIWPS) in a wasteland known as Sota situated 7 Km. downstream of the city i.e. Varuna confluence. The AIWPS will create jobs, develop the area and protect it against flood in addition to its primary work of cleaning the sewage of the city. The watertight interceptors will run all the year round and stop completely the flow of sewage into the river from point sources.
- This PFR was subjected to technical appraisal by Govt. experts. A thorough site inspection of the project area by a team of all concerned people including the Govt. and VNN followed by a meeting were held in Nov. 1997 to finalise the PFR adopted by VNN.
- The VNN-SMF PFR was suitably modified in the light of comments made in the technical appraisal, site inspection and meeting held between May 1997 and Nov.1997. As a result the estimated cost of the project increased from Rs.100 crores to Rs. 150 crores.
- Retrofitting of GAP I works to the GAP-II as desired by the Govt. was also done in this revised PFR.
- VNN passed a fresh resolution (resolution no. 339) in July 1998 to accept the PFR in its revised form.
- VNN forwarded this revised PFR to Govt. for approval and finance.
Government's silence over the revised PFR presented by the VNN
- VNN without any resources did a commendable job in presenting the revised PFR for GAP-II as an alternative proposal to the UPJN's PFR
- But Govt. did not take any decision and stopped communicating with VNN and SMF over the revised PFR after the meeting in Nov. 1997.
- Probably the Govt. preferred to hang out with UPJN's PFR of Rs. 47 crores which was made before the installation of the elected VNN in 1995. Even CCEA of Govt. of India sanctioned Rs. 47 crores in favour of this 47 crore PFR of UPJN.
- Later in 1998 the U.P.Govt. in a surprising way cancelled the resolution no. 339 of VNN. No information of this decision was given to VNN. Similarly U.P.Govt. cancelled Resolution no. 602 of Feb. 2003.
- After the 74th amendment and the municipal act's revision U.P.Govt. does not have power to cancel any decision of VNN.
NRCD & GoUP submit the UPJN's PFR in Hon'ble Allahabad H.C. and few corporators also appeared before Hon'ble H.C.
- In 1998 NRCD & GoUP submitted in Hon'ble Allahabad H.C. their PFR after revising it to Rs. 159 crore. The revision was done to satisfy the condition (a foolproof system) imposed by Hon'ble H.C. and consequently get the Hon'ble Court's approval for Govt.'s PFR.
- Few Corporator of VNN dissatisfied with the Gov. approach impleaded in the Hon'ble H.C. and informed the Hon'ble H.C. about VNN PFR .
Hon'ble H.C. constitutes a committee to examine the two PFRs
Hon'ble Allahabad H.C. in Sept. 1998 then passed an order to constitute a committee with Prof. G.D. Agrawal, former Head, Civil Engg., IIT, Kanpur and former member secretary, CPCB, Shri M.C. Mehta, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court, and others and asked NRCD to provide fecilities to the committee for its work. The Committee was asked to examine the two PFRs and submit its report to the Hon'ble court.
NRCD's SLP in Hon'ble Supreme Court, Hon'ble S.C.'s stay of Hon'ble H.C.'s order
- NRCD filed an SLP in Hon'ble Supreme Court against the order of the Hon'ble H.C. to set up a committee to examine both the PFR's. Hon'ble SC. stayed in Nov. 1998 the Hon'ble H.C.'s aforesaid order. The other party was not present before the Hon'ble S.C.
UPJN revises its PFR once again and submits to VNN this entirely new PFR
- Jan 1999 UPJN revised its Rs. 159 crore PFR to Rs. 234 crore and submitted it to VNN for its approval. It may be noted that U.P. Govt. and UPJN did not submit before Jan 1999 their PFR for GAP II to VNN for VNN's approval.
In Jan. 1999 NRCD appoints Prof. GDA committee regarding GAP and the committee recommends VNN-SMF PFR
- In the mean time in Jan. 1999, NRCD appointed a committee with Prof. G.D. Agrawal as its chairman to suggest ways and means to make GAP more successful. The committee suggested in general that gravity should be used for interception and diversion and ponds system should be used for sewage treatment and use of electricity should be minimised. In particular the committee recommended the PFR passed by VNN for GAP-II.
NRCD did not act over Prof. GDA committee's findings and recommendations
- NRCD did not consider this report because in its opinion the committee acted beyond its points of reference in recommending VNN PFR for GAP II.
NBCC criticises GAP-I - VNN-SMF's PFR feasible
- After the General Election of 1999 in October, new Parliament and new Environment Minister took charge.
- Hon. Jagmohan minister for Urban affairs rather than the environment minister took initiative to solve the problem of PFRs for GAP II.
- The two PFRs were referred to NBCC (National Building Construction Corporation) of the Govt. The NBCC criticised the unsatisfactory working of GAP I of Varanasi made by UPJN.
- It pointed out the positive and negative points of both the PFRs but it neither recommended nor rejected any PFR.
- In fact the negative points raised by NBCC against VNN-SMF PFR were removed earlier when VNN passed the revised PFR of SMF in 1998.
- NBCC's negative opinion about oxidation ponds did not apply to VNN-SMF AIWPS pond system. However NBCC opined that interceptor along ghats as proposed in SMF PFR for GAP-II is feasible.
VNN requests Prof. GDA to do techno-economic appraisal of the PFRs
- In the mean time in Dec. 1999 the VNN requested Prof. G.D. Agrawal to do techno-economic appraisal of both the PFRs and make available the appraisal report to the VNN for its consideration. This appraisal report done in a very professional manner has recommended the SMF PFR for GAP II. It may be noted that VNN has adopted this PFR in the year 1997 and then in 1998 after it was revised.
NRCD appointed another committee to examine both the PFRs
- Quickly after the VNN appointed Prof. G.D. Agrawal's committee for techno-economic appraisal NRCD appointed in Jan. 2000 another committee headed by Prof. K.J. Nath to examine the two PFRs.
- Prof. K.J.Nath committee in its report appreciated the AIWPS system of ponds, proposed in SMF-PFR for sewage treatment.
- But the committee did not recommend the site proposed for the AIWPS pond in SMF PFR and did not give any technical reason for doing so.
- The Rs. 34 crore water tight interceptor from one end to the other end of the city proposed in SMF PFR was not recommended for the reason that it may cause damage to the buildings on the ghats and hurt the public sentiments.
- However, Prof. K.J. Nath committee recommended a smaller length watertight interceptor on ghats which was proposed in UPJN PFR and which would cost Rs. 23 crores.
- The said UPJN interceptor would follow the same alignment as in the case of the other interceptor. But additionally it would increase dependence on electricity, increase the O & M cost and increase the risk of damage to the city's old trunk sewer.This committee recommended UPJN's PFR without considering the VNN's need for cleaning Ganga and the objections of VNN on UPJN PFR. UPJN PFR for GAP II requires more capital cost as well as O&M cost. It needs many more ghat sewage pumps and increase the electricity bill substantially.
- It may be mentioned that Prof. K.J. Nath working with Prof. G.D. Agrawal's committee of NRCD as its member agreed to recommend SMF PFR but when he was asked a second time by the NRCD to head its committee he has changed his opinion without giving any reason and recommended UPJN PFR for GAP II.
VNN-SMF PFR - Appropriate PFR for GAP-II for Varanasi
- A perusal of all the reports of aforesaid four committees which examined both the PFRs shows that the reports of the two committees recomend SMF PFR for GAP II.
- One of the reports does not recommend or reject any of the PFRs. Only Prof. K.J. Nath committee report recommends UPJN PFR for GAP II but is not putting sound technical resons for doing so. It does not fulfil the conditions laid down by VNN for GAP II. And it recommends a more expensive PFR.
- Thus it is clear that VNN SMF PFR for GAP-II is appropriate for Varanasi.
VNN's resolution 550 - Sends PFRs to NRCD & GoUP for technical decision
- The first House of VNN and first Mayor of Varanasi were going to complete their tenure of office and general election for the VNN were due in Nov. 2000.
- So the VNN passed resolution no. 550 in Sept 2000 to record its objections to the UPJN PFR and then forward both the PFRs to NRCD and U.P. Govt. for technical decision on the suitability of the two PFRs.
- The VNN's objections to UPJN's PFR for GAP II are :
1. No sewage pumping station will be made in the premises of Jal Sansthan. No sewer line be laid beneath the road where the main feeder line for drinking water has been laid.
2. Nagar Nigam does not agree with the annual maintenance expenditure of Rs.10-12 crores.
3. Not even one inch of cultivable land belonging to the farmers of Dinapur, Sathwa aand Ramana villages be acquired.
4. Only that proposal be implemented which ensures that not even one drop of sewage flows into Gangaji.
5. VNN has also decided that sewerage system be laid in trans Varuna area.
Comparision of salient features of the two PFRs
- The components of the two PFRs are shown in the two sketch maps (no. 1 & no. 2 ).
- Salient Features of the two PFRs extracted from the four technical reports are presented in the following table :
U.P. Jal Nigam's PFR
Rs. 234 crores
Rs. 150 Crores
Rs. 12 Crores/year
Rs. 3 Crores/year