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60,000 tonnes of waste: The Kumbh Mela effect

Scenes from the 2019 Kumbh Mela. Image credit: Vitthal Jondhale [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]
When 240 million people took a dip in the mighty Ganga river during in Prayag between January 4th and March 14th this year, it should have been a clean exercise if officials were to be believed.

With a whopping budget of Rs 4,200 crore allocated to organising the festival, the BJP government claimed that it was the cleanest water in the history of modern India. Ironically, however, the religious conglomeration which had descended on Prayagraj to cleanse their sins ended up dumping tonnes of unsegregated solid waste. And thanks to negligence, it has led to a sanitation crisis of such a magnitude that Down to Earth reported that the National Green Tribunal (NGT) said on April 22nd that “Prayagraj was on the verge of an epidemic [that] must be dealt with ‘on an emergency basis.’”

The NGT report said 60,000 tonnes of untreated solid waste had piled up at the Baswar solid waste treatment plant. Out of this figure, 18,000 tonnes had been generated during the Kumbh mela. The waste treatment plant hadn’t even been operational since September 2018 – a fact the administration was aware of. This did not stop the waste from being dumped at the treatment plant regardless, where it remains in the open at peril to public health.

A report in Down To Earth has opened a pandora’s box. Their ground report from Baswar plan found a huge pile of untreated waste that will clearly fall directly into the Yamuna river if kept unattended for long. What is unimaginable is that the plant has not been operational for long and that this didn’t make a difference to the administration when organising a gathering millions were going to attend.

This has blown the lid off Nanami ganga project which has claimed to rely on sewage treatment plants to clean the Ganga basin by 2020. Down To Earth reports that Baswar plant is not a standalone case of violation, as many other such plants are spewing sewage into the Ganga and making it toxic. As previously reported by Health Issues India, many rivers in India are too polluted to sustain human life. The Ganga is no exception to this, despite it being a site of much veneration the Prime Minister said he was on a mission to clean and protect in the 2014 election campaign.

Clean Ganga Mission has been very close to both the Centre and the state governments for a long time now, with crores of money being spent on its rejuvenation as reported by Health Issues India in the past.

Our fact-checking has revealed, according to the Namami Ganga monitoring update, that Rs 2326.92 crore have been sanctioned for sewage treatment plants and in Uttar Pradesh itself, out of eighteen thirteen projects are already complete. But with these ground reports, one can only wonder if these funds have been utilised properly.

The mission to clean Mother Ganga requires dedication and seamless coordination, not to mention political commitment that goes beyond mere platitudes. However, as reported by Health Issues India, in the past the main body that authorises the cleaning of the river has not even met once

Now that elections have come to an end it is time for the government to tackle this waste and live up to its promise of making Ganga pure again otherwise this may only add upto water pollution woes Ganga has been battling.


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