SUBJECT :Pollution 
Events around World Water Day, which is marked every year on March 22, may remind everyone about the implications of dwindling water reserves due to population pressure and pollution but the message is, somehow, lost in absence of adequate action on the ground by stakeholders, including the government.

The water pollution scenario in India can be mapped by the findings of the country's key pollution watchdog - Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) - which in its recent report noted that nearly 37,000 million liters per day (MLD) of 'untreated' sewage water flows into rivers across the country.

The report, submitted to the environment ministry last month, said that though the sewage treatment capacity in the country was augmented over the years, the wide gap between sewage generation (57,000 MLD) and treatment capacity (20,358 MLD) kept polluting water resources - be it river water or groundwater.

While municipal waste water is the prime cause of increasing water pollution, flow of untreated industrial waste water into rivers is not far behind.

As many as 302 river stretches on 275 rivers across the country have got polluted due to discharge of both municipal and industrial waste water over the years.

At a time when the government is focusing more on Ganga and Yamuna, the issue of polluted river stretches on other rivers appear to have been pushed to the backburner. Though the government has time and again said that it was equally serious about pollution in other rivers, nothing much has been done on the ground beyond the two northern rivers.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to focus on this 'gap' when he chairs a meeting of the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) on March 26. Though the agenda of the meeting will revolve around Modi's pet project of 'Namami Gange' that is aimed to rejuvenate the Ganga in a time-bound manner, he may ask officials of water resources and environment ministries to focus on other rivers as well in a coordinated manner.

"Obviously, the model of Ganga rejuvenation will be replicated elsewhere in due course, keeping in mind the topographical factors. The Ganga has caught attention of policymakers because 45% of the country's population depends on this river for livelihood and well-being", said an official, defending the current focus.

It is noted that more that than two-third of the sewage generated in 118 towns, located along Ganga, get discharged into the river untreated. The CPCB report pointed out that these towns collectively generate over 3,636 MLD of sewage as against the treatment capacity of approximately 1,027 MLD of the existing 55 sewage treatment plants (STPs) in these towns/cities spread over five states.

Nationwide, there are 606 STPs having a cumulative treatment capacity of around 20,358 MLD. Analyzing the water quality data of all the rivers across the country, the CPCB report highlighted that the country has as many as 302 polluted river stretches on 275 small and big rivers. It also noted that there are 650 towns located along those stretches.

Incidentally, majority of those polluted river stretches are in non-Ganga river basin states. There are 48 polluted river stretches in Ganga river basin in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal as against 254 in non-Ganga river basins in rest of the country.

As far as number of town/cities in those basins along polluted river stretches is concerned, 118 towns are located in the Ganga river basin as against 532 towns in other parts of the country. However population-wise, it is the river Ganga basin which alone supports 45% of the people living in the country.

Source: 23 March, 2015, The Economics Times