Sunday, July 06, 2008

Symbolic gesture for river cleaning in Lucknow

Indian rivers are extremely polluted, and have been so for a long time now. It is all the more horrible since we consider many of these rivers as holy and worship them; the waters of the river Ganga find a very holy spot in Hindu culture. And yet, the waters of most of these rivers look hideous (unable to support marine life, unfit for human consumption, and so on). Various Governments claim to spend a lot of time and effort to clean up these rivers and have drawn up plans over the past 2 decades with big sounding names (all ending with the words of 'Action Plan') and the rivers remain dirty.
Over a period of time, even the courts of India have been unable to push the Governments to make an effective plan that is also executed well. All you get in the end is a lot of discussion about which method is the best for river cleaning (for those familiar with the discussions, the endless discussion in Delhi around where the sewage treatment plants should be, and how to stop the big drains from throwing their filth directly into the river would be funny if it was not so critical to public health). Otherwise, you would not get cases whereby drinking water to a city became critical when the filth content of the water available for drinking became too high.
What is required is for Governments to set up dedicated action plans that will ensure proper treatment of sewage (whether industrial or residential) so that no untreated sewage flows into the various water bodies that we have. Industries that violate this dictum need to be severely fined and punished (and that means that corruption levels in the environmental inspection area need to come down). Else we will end up with more cases such as the one in Punjab where millions of fish in a canal suddenly died due to release of untreated industrial waste. What we don't really need is for this kind of publicity generating measures such as this one:

With the state police coming to the fore to free the Gomti of pollution, now those caught red handed throwing garbage in the river will be severely dealt with. This announcement was made on Saturday by the director general of police (DGP) Vikram Singh, even as along with other senior officials of the department he took it upon himself to clean the city's lifeline.
In the morning the officials arrived at the banks of the Gomti for the cleanliness drive that is on to clean the river for the past few days. During the drive, the DGP made an official announcement that one company of river police will be deployed on all the banks of the river.

How will they prevent people from throwing trash into the river ? And will it stop if they patrol a few kilometers ? Would it not be more effective to have a proper education drive along with ensuring that people get a proper garbage collection facility ? Or am I hoping for an ideal world ?

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posted by Ashish Agarwal @ 6:21 AM