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International Ganga River Basin gets National Authority?

Written By Gopal Krishna on Tuesday, March 10, 2009 | 7:01 AM

Does the "National Ganga River Basin Authority" take note of the Ganga basin as part of the composite Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin, which drains an area of 1,086,000 square kilometres which lies in China, Nepal, India Bangladesh and Bhutan?

Ganga basin is bounded on the north by the Himalayas, on the west by the Aravalli as well as the ridge separating it from Indus basin, on the south by the Vindhyas and Chotanagpur Plateau and on the east by the Brahmaputra ridge.

Ganga River Ganga originates from the hills of Himalayas at Gangotri and meets Bay of Bengal. The basin extends into 11 states viz. Uttranchal, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal. In Madhya Pradesh, the basin extends up to the districts of Mandsaur, Ujjain, Shajapur, Rajgarh, Neemuch, Vidisha, Guna, Shivpuri, Datia, Gwalior, Morena, Sheopur, Bhind, Tikamgarh, Chhattarpur, Panna, Satna, Rewa, Ashoknagar, Shahdol, Sidhi, and Partly in the district of Annuppur, Umaria, Katni, Jabalpur. Mandla, Dindori, Dhar, Ratlam, Indore, Dewas, Sehore, Raisen, Sagar, Bhopal, and Damoh. The Ganga basin can be further sub-divided into three sub-basins viz. Yamuna, Tons and Sone.

Yamuna sub basin

Total geographical area of Yamuna sub basin in Madhya Pradesh is 1,42,250 km², out of which the area available for agriculture is estimated as 90,105 km² and water availability at 75% dependability is 27627 hm Total water available for use of the State after deducting for interstate agreements is 23642 hm only. The major rivers of this sub-basin in Madhya Pradesh are Chambal, Ken, Dhasan, Betwa, Kunwari, Sindh, Paisuni and Jamni.

Tons sub basin

River Tons originates in Satna district. Total basin area in Madhya Pradesh is 11974 km². The river meets Ganga after flowing 246 km in Madhya Pradesh, 7 km making boundary between Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh and finally 67 km in Uttar Pradesh. Totoa land put to use for agriculture purpose in Tons basin is 8460 km² in the State for which 2244 hm of water is available for its use against total available water at 75% dependability is 2244 hm.

Sone sub basin

Total basin area of this river in Madhya Pradesh is 28880 km². Total length of river is 784 km. In Madhya Pradesh, the river flows for 470 km. The river meets Ganga in Bihar state near Patna. The major tributaries of river Sone are Johilla, Mahanadi, Gopad, Rehar, Kanhar, and Banas.

Ganga basin has a population of more than 500 million, making it the most populated river basin in the world.

The basin comprises mountainous regions of the Himalayan ranges with dense forests, as well as the sparsely forested Shiwalik Hills and the fertile Gangetic Plains. The central highlands lying to the South of the Great Plains consist of mountains, hills and plateaus intersected by valleys and river plains. The important soil types found in the basin are sand, loam, clay and their combinations such as sandy loam, silty clay etc.

The annual surface water potential of the basin has been assessed as 525 km³ in India, out of which 250 km³ is utilisable water. Arable area of the basin in India is about 580,000 km², which is 29.5% of the total cultivable area of India.

The water related issues of the basin are both due to high and low flow. In India, the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal are affected by floods. As Bangladesh lies at the confluence of Brahmaputra River and Ganges River, it suffers from terrible floods almost every year. Many of the flood problems are caused by northern tributaries of Ganga such as Kosi and Mahananda. Besides these problems are also caused by southern tributaries.

The basin is a high earthquake risk area and experts warn that as many as a million deaths could be expected on the Ganges plain, as the southern flank of the Himalayas has not been active enough over past centuries to release the energy accumulated by the millimetre per week upward movement of the Indian plate.

Ganga River

More than 400 million people live along the Ganga River. An estimated 2,000,000 persons ritually bathe daily in the river, which is considered holy by Indians. In the Hindu religion it is said to flow from the lotus feet of Vishnu (for Vaisnava devotees) or the hair of Shiva (for Saivites). The spiritual and religious significance could be compared to what the Nile river meant to the ancient Egyptians. While the Ganges may be considered holy, there are some problems associated with the ecology. It is filled with chemical wastes, sewage and even the remains of human and animal corpses which carry major health risks by either direct bathing in the water (e.g.: Bilharziasis infection), or by drinking (the Fecal-oral route).

The combination of bacteriophages and large populations of people bathing in the river have apparently produced a self-purification effect, in which water-bourne bacteria such as dysentery and cholera are killed off, preventing large-scale epidemics. The river also has an unusual ability to retain dissolved oxygen.

Upstream from Varanasi, one of the major pilgrimage sites along the river, the water is comparatively pure, having a low Biochemical oxygen demand and fecal coliform count. Studies conducted in 1983 on water samples taken from the right bank of the Ganga at Patna confirm that escheria coli (E.Coli.), fecal streptococci and vibrio cholerae organisms die two to three times faster in the Ganga than in water taken from the rivers Son and Gandak and from dug wells and tube wells in the same area.

To know why 1,000 Indian children die of diarrhoeal sickness every day, take a wary stroll along the Ganges in Varanasi. As it enters the city, Hinduism’s sacred river contains 60,000 faecal coliform bacteria per 100 millilitres, 120 times more than is considered safe for bathing. Four miles downstream, with inputs from 24 gushing sewers and 60,000 pilgrim-bathers, the concentration is 3,000 times over the safety limit. In places, the Ganges becomes black and septic. Corpses, of semi-cremated adults or enshrouded babies, drift slowly by.

—The Economist on December 11, 2008

Ganga Action Plan

Ganga Action Plan or GAP was a program launched by Government of India in April 1985 in order to reduce the pollution load on the river. The program was launched with much fanfare, but it terribly failed to decrease the pollution level in the river, after spending 901.71 crore (approx. 1010) rupees over a period of 15 years.

NATIONAL RIVER CONSERVATION PLAN

The activities of GAP phase 1 initiated in 1985 were declared closed on 31 march 2000.The steering Committee of the national river conservation Authority reviewed the progress of the GAP and necessary correction on the basis of lessons learnt and experiences gained from the GAP phase 1.69 schemes have been completed under this plan .A million liters of sewage is targeted to be intercepted ,diverted and treated.(source : CBSE class 9 geography reader ,page 23)

To comprehend the true nature and color of this insincere step of notifying "National" Ganga River Basin Authority just prior to the upcoming parliamentary elections must be seen along with Government's Environmental impact assessment notification 2009 that has consistently been diluted and converted into rigged and cooked paper work. Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) is simply indulging in shadow boxing with such empty and hollow notifications. The ongoing amputation of Ganga basin rivers and mutilated environment clearance mechanism is in keeping with the objective of CCEA. It appears that CCEA and Dr Manmohan Singh who is also the Environment Minister since 2007 are allergic to any genuine sensitivity towards ecosystem, environmental governance and the existence of Ganga with its natural flow intact.

Believe it or not the Government of India confesses that it has been enlightened to note that "The setting up of the authority will help replace the current piecemeal efforts to clean up the Ganga with an integrated approach that sees the river as an ecological entity" when elections are on the horizon.

One would be quite gullible to think of the announcement of a Ganga River Basin Authority by a lame duck government to be of any significance when the government's more significant steps such as Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, Environment Protection Act, 1986 and the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification 1994 have been made impotent by the corporate funded political parties.

Government's February 20, 2009 announcement in the Parliament for the setting up of a National Ganga River Basin Authority, proposal for State Ganga River Conservation Authorities and its concern for Ganga cleaning program does not have even an iota of seriousness. It betrays its lack of any concern when it refers to the need for "Maintenance of minimum ecological flows in the river Ganga with the aim of ensuring water quality and environmentally sustainable development" after discussing "pollution abatement measures through ensuring adequate ecological flow in the river" on February 10, 2009.

The exemplary promptness of T.K.A. Nair, the principal secretary to the prime minister and the chief secretaries of the Ganga Basin states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand. West Bengal to unanimously endorse the proposal for a notification under the Environment Ministry, the weakest Ministry in the government is quite revealing.
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