BY – MADHUSHREE PAUL
India has a series of environmental laws governing the need and concern that the environment seeks and the myth has been spreading that Human Beings Induced the Climate Change. In recent years there has been tremendous evolution in the legislations comprising all that is included under the head “Environment”. The Constitution of India, enacted in 1950, initially did not deal with the prevention and control of pollution as such until the 42nd amendment in the year 1974, which states the responsibility of the State Government to protect and improve the environment and safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country. It is the fundamental duty of every citizen of India to protect the natural environment, including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife. The Stockholm Declaration, 1972, recognizes the principle of equality in environmental management.
Article 47 of the Indian Constitution states the – Duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health. The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties and, in particular, the State shall endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs which are injurious to health because of which it is common saying that Human Induced the Climate Change.
Article 48A of the Indian Constitution states that the “Protection and improvement of environment and safeguarding of forests and wildlife. The State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country”
Article 51A(g) of the Indian Constitution states that the “to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.”
But what is the use of any of these laws when India is, day by day falling into a quicksand of deterioration? Even though the Green House Gas (GHG) emission of India was lower than that of the U.S.A. and China in 2017, India’s global emission was still 6.8 per cent. India, as of 2019, with a pollution index of 75.55, stands at 14th rank in the Asian subcontinent, and as of the world, India stands at rank 24th. And that suggests how this is less of mother nature’s behaviour and more of a human-induced act. Climatic change may be a cause of nature’s vagaries but human beings have no doubt been acting as active catalysts for the damage.
So, are these laws any good at giving the country the required fuel it needs to generate cleanliness. Not to mention the extraordinarily low scale of implementation done by the government and the citizens themselves deserves a big round of applause.
Let’s take a look at the damage that’s been done.
GANGA ACTION PLANS
Ganga is considered a Holy river because it has self-cleaning and healing properties. The river has anti-bacterial properties due to the presence of bacteriophages which is a virus that eats bacteria. Apart from this, Ganga is also the largest river in all of India providing water to more than 40 per cent of the Indian Population. As of today, Ganga is also the 6th most polluted river in the world.
Guess how did Ganga get “mayli”?
Domestic Waste. Ganga is used even today as an everyday bathing site for most of the population residing nearby. And it’s not only a bathing site for humans but also Gaay Mata (cow) and many other animals. It is used for cleaning clothes, and most of the population defecate near the banks of Ganga due to lack of sanitation facilities. Approximately 3 billion litres of raw, untreated sewage is dumped into the river daily. But this doesn’t feel like much of a cause for the river getting so polluted because it has self-cleaning properties!
Well, how about Religious traditions? Human not just directly but indirectly in the name of several traditions Induced such Climate Change. Ganga has witnessed the worst of Hinduism and probably will keep seeing them if no such actions are taken. Ganga is considered Holy and the water is used in almost every ceremony. Even cremation. Almost all the cremation sites are situated close to Ganga and after the cremation, the ashes are released into the river. It is a prominent belief across all of Hinduism that when ashes are released into the sacred river, the reincarnation cycle ends and the dead reaches “Nirvana”. Varanasi believed to be the holiest out of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism. At Manikarnika Ghat, the largest and holiest Ghats in Varanasi witnesses almost a 100 body-cremations and the river Ganga work around the clock every single day. And really, how can one argue with the age-old beliefs that cremation, even today, gives shape to all of Hinduism. How does one justify the harmful effects of the cremation, how cremation results in tons of carbon dioxide emission throughout the year? Has it occurred to anyone that the amount of waste being thrown into the Holy river might actually create a blockage for the dead to reach Nirvana? At times, due to the will of the dead, the bodies aren’t cremated at all but let go into the Ganga. And it’s not just Varanasi, but all the cremation sites near Ganga especially, Haridwar and Kashi. Still doesn’t seem reason enough for Ganga getting polluted?
How about the amount of industrial waste? Human not only indirectly but several times directly Induced in Climate Change. Due to a large number of industries set up in the cities near Ganga, like Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna and so many others, numerous leather industries, chemical plants, textile mills, etc. grow and eventually participate into polluting the river. Industrial discharge comprises 12 per cent of the total volume of reaching the Ganga. Although it might seem not that big a number, most of the effluents released are toxic and non-biodegradable.
It’s not that the Government has not made any clean-up efforts, there are numerous programs run by previous Governments, for instance, The Ganga Action Plan 1986, introduced by Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India to reduce the pollution being increased there. The Ganga Action Plan was initially launched in 1986 by the then Prime Minister Rajeev Gandhi to treat water pollution with security measures that it won’t deteriorate any further. A sum of Rupees 916 Crore was spent through 1986 to 2009, but the plan had failed miserably. The pollution levels in Ganga were found the same or even higher. The establishment of National River Ganga Basin Authority (NRGBA) in 2008 declared Ganga the “National River” of India making it of utmost importance to clean the river. The 2010 Government Cleanup Campaign, which held an estimation of $4 billion and claimed that by 2020 no untreated municipal sewage shall enter the river.
The latest action plan introduced by Modi Government is the “Namami Gange” which was launched on 10th July 2014. This was a five – year plan with an allotment of 22,000 Crore, which was supposed to reach its goals by 2019. The main objective of the plan being : Improving the already existing Sewage Treatment Infrastructure; Restoring the flow; Monitoring the industrial effluents being dumped into the river; River surface cleaning, and getting rid of solid wastes; Development of Riverfront; Reviving the bio-diversity in the Ganga waters; Encourage Aforestation along the river banks; Educating and creating public awareness; Development of villages near the banks of Ganga.
But, how far has the plan been successful? It’s already 2019 and the plan has been extended till 2020. The pollution levels are higher than it was in 2014, the construction of dams is hampering the flow of Ganga. Ganga will only retain its medicinal properties if it flows. There still prevails sludge problem in the nearby villages and the costs are getting higher due to the extension of the term.
Seems like Ram’s Ganga is going to stay “Mayli” for another year.
“Faecal coliform presence was recorded at 49,000/100ml in 2017 up from 31,000 in 2014 at the bridge location, the government acknowledged in the RTI response.”
The weirdest of all is the fact that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is making it an important task to clean the Ganga for the Kumbh Mela. The Kumbh Mela is celebrated in a cycle of 3 years and switches between 4 locations namely, Haridwar (Ganga), Prayag (Sangam of Yamuna, Ganga and Sarawati), Ujjain (Kashipra) and Nasik (Godavari), and is one of the major Pilgrimage and festival celebrated in India. The number of people attending the festival can go as high as 10 Crore. If so many people take it upon themselves to dip in Ganga, how will the river be kept clean during the festival?
Not to mention the fact that Ganga is only being cleaned because of the festival and not for all the time that is to come.
Ganga is probably tired of washing away people’s sins – “Ram Teri Ganga mayli ho Gayi, papiyo ke Paap dhote dhote.” Which seems even relevant at this point because Hindus firmly believe that those who bathe in the sacred waters during the Kumbh are eternally blessed by the divine and that all their sins are washed away.
To be continued….