There are several people involved professionally in the business of cleaning vehicles in parking lots on the river banks. They use washing powders or chemicals and add to the pollution. In addition to that cleaning of vehicles adds extra pollutants such as oil, grease, etc. The polluted oils enter the water cycle and form a film on the surface of rivers and lakes. It is dangerous since it drastically reduces the level of oxygen in the water making it difficult for the aquatic creatures to breathe. The polluted oils can further coat plants and animals that come into its contact. Discharge of oil can cause havoc on coastlines and the oceans, which finally devastate marine life. In January 2001 the oil tanker Jessica ran aground off the Galapagos Islands, a real life Jurassic Park home to some of the world’s most unique species, including the giant tortoise. Half a million litres of oil was spilt, destroying millions of invertebrates at the bottom of the food chain, which means many animals there must be starving.
There are laws and state authorities to protect the holy river from such polluting activities. Various officers and staffs have been appointed by Ganga Pollution Control Unit and Pollution Control Boards and they have been working for many decades without much success to curb the pollution caused by such acts. Certain plans and many comprehensive programmes for the prevention, control or abatement of pollution of streams and wells have been introduced by the state in order to secure the execution of environmental laws. There are notices inscribed on the ghats, mentioning that the use of soap and detergents are prohibited.
The project manager of Ganga Pollution Control Unit at Hardwar told us that he was unaware of any law to prevent the use of soaps and detergents. Such unawareness on part of the state officials appointed to prevent the pollution of the river is significant in highlighting the deplorable condition. The state agencies must introduce adequate training programmes for its officials so that they can effectively curb the pollution of the river.
The Union Government of India on 3 March 1974 enacted ‘The Water (prevention and control of pollution) Act’ with a view to preserve the water resources of the nation. The act empowers state authorities to preserve rivers, streams, wells and the land from being polluted. Section 24 of the act is solely for the Prohibition on use of stream or well for disposal of polluting matter, etc.
There is a specific law against such pollution caused by use of soaps and detergents on river banks or any other streams, lakes, wells, etc. and more than thirty years have passed since the law was enacted. But still there are ignorant officials in the concerned state agencies. The Act further states, in Section 43, the penalty for contravention of the provisions as mentioned in Section 24. Polluting the river Ganga is a punishable offence with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than one year and six months but which may extend to six years and with a fine. The law for preservation of rivers from pollution caused by using soaps and detergents on ghats, has been in force since 1974.
More than thirty-three years have gone by but none have received any punishment. Perhaps not even a single person has been convicted. The major reason of this status of law is due to the administrative and bureaucratic apathy, which in itself is among the major problems of the country. The purpose of this enactment of law was to ensure the nation’s water resources were protected, conserved, managed and controlled in sustainable ways. Enforcement of this provision of law is necessary in order to promote the efficient, sustainable and beneficial use of water in the public interest and to meet the basic human needs of present and future generations. Obviously this is an obligation in the wake of the growing demand for water and the protection of aquatic and associated ecosystems and the riparian biological diversity.
The addition of waste remains continued and increases proportionately with the size and population of the city and towns the Ganga flows through, until she finally merges with the sea at the Bay of Bengal. Moreover, the issue of river pollution does not end there. In fact it shifts from river pollution to polluting the ocean and killing thousands of innocent creatures. The American Congress’s office of technology assessment reported in the late eighties that hundreds of thousands of sea birds and an estimated one hundred thousand marine mammals die each year by ingesting or becoming entangled with plastic debris. The number of killings of innocent creatures has apparently increased in the last two decades, although several laws for the preservation of ecology and environment have been introduced and possibly enforced to a certain extent. Nearly three quarters of our planet is covered by oceans and these vast reservoirs are interconnected with each other. Some environmentalists consider the sea to be even more sacred than the earth. Several agreements and protocols on international levels have been signed by nations to preserve the oceans.
The present situation of the Ganga, from the origin to its end, seems to be like the sink that is being used for the disposal of trash. The municipal authorities of various towns and cities on the banks of the river sometimes commit this vice willingly, and the Ganga Pollution Control Unit seems to own the legal rights to commit such a polluting act. Whenever it suits the employees of the agency they stop the functioning of pumping stations and divert the flow of untreated sewage into the holy river. It is the need of the hour to look into these problems with all seriousness so that our next generation would see before it vanishes like the Saraswati.
Source: The Holy Ganga