About 78 per cent of towns in West Bengal along the river Ganga have nullahs (drains) flowing directly into the river, a third party inspection of all 97 Ganga towns across five states has revealed. Overall, 66 of the 97 towns had at least one nullah draining into the Ganga, 31 of those were in West Bengal. West Bengal has the largest chunk of towns (40) along the river, followed by Uttar Pradesh (21), Bihar (18), Uttarakhand (16) and Jharkhand (2).
The assessment undertaken by the Quality Council of India over a period of six weeks focused on four major priority areas for the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs - overall cleanliness, solid waste management services, nullahs and screens, and availability of a municipal solid waste plant in the town. The survey was carried out between November 1 and December 15, 2018.
Shift of focus from managing liquid waste to solid waste
With substantial investment having gone into managing liquid waste in towns along the river Ganga, the stocktaking workshop held Wednesday with representatives from states governments was crucial to shift focus on how solid waste management and the need to achieve 100% source segregation was crucial for the smooth functioning of infrastructure that is in place. With the report pointing out that dump sites were close to the river in many towns, and screens placed on drains were choked with solid waste, it is evident that the efforts to clean the river needs to be multifaceted.
The report points out that only 19 towns across the Ganga basin had a municipal solid waste plant within the town, and in 33 towns, assessors found solid waste floating on at least one of the ghats of the town. "72 towns had old and legacy dumpsites as well as garbage vulnerable points in the vicinity of the ghats," the report states.
In Uttar Pradesh, 13 towns, including Prayagraj, Ramnagar, Varanasi and Kanpur, were found to have nullahs discharging directly into the river. Ten towns in Uttarakhand, including Haridwar and Rishkesh, had a similar issue. The assessors also found shortfalls in containing garbage dumping sites which were found to be "vulnerable points" near ghats where wind displaced the solid waste onto the river in some instances. This was the case in 17 towns in Bihar and 34 towns in West Bengal. In several instances across the states, it was found that dumping sites were close to the ghats.
In Bihar, 56 per cent towns have drains near the river and "all these towns are discharging the nullahs directly into the river Ganga, whereas there were no screens installed at the nullahs", the report states. In West Bengal, the report states, "three percent towns have screens installed at the nullah and in 3% towns it was found that screens are choked with solid waste".
In a stocktaking workshop where the report was presented, state in-charges were given a time limit of February 2019 to achieve 100 per cent source segregation. National Mission for Clean Ganga director general Rajiv Ranjan Mishra said his team will do an assessment by mid-March.