Calcutta, May 5: In 1985, the country launched one of its biggest anti-pollution projects to cleanse the Ganga. Two decades and hundreds of crores of rupees later, the filth in the Bengal part of the river has increased so much that in some areas it is unsafe for bathing.
During the same period, the quality of Ganga water has either improved or stayed the same in most other states through which the river flows and which are covered by the Ganga Action Plan (GAP).
A report on the National River Conservation Plan ' with which GAP has been merged ' shows that water quality norms such as “dissolved oxygen” (DO) and “biochemical oxygen demand” (BOD) have worsened in Palta and Uluberia over the past two decades. This despite about Rs 300 crore having been spent on the project in the state.
A higher BOD suggests a larger amount of organisms, such as bacteria, in the water and therefore more pollution. A lower DO suggests the same, for the organisms would be using up the dissolved oxygen.
The report, circulated by the Union environment and forests ministry, says the summer average values of dissolved oxygen in Palta and Uluberia were 7.0 and 5.4 mg per litre (mg/) in 2005 ' a slump from 7.3 and 5.8 in 1987.
The BOD figures are worse, indicating up to a threefold increase in pollution: from 1.1 mg/ in 1987 to 2.6 in 2005 in Uluberia; and from 1.0 mg/ to 3.1 in Palta.
According to the central government’s norms, water fit for bathing should have a DO of 5 mg/ or more and a BOD of 3 mg/ or less.
The first phase of the project, GAP-I, began in 1985, and the second, GAP-II, in 1993. The Supreme Court has brought several towns on the river’s banks, overlooked originally, under the plan. The programme was expanded to include all the major rivers of the country in 1995 under the National River Conservation Plan and GAP II was merged in it.
The figures in Bengal are the worst among the sampling points across the country ' 16 in all, starting with Rishikesh and ending with Uluberia.
The report says while Bengal had spent about 55 per cent of the money sanctioned under GAP II till November 2005, it had completed only 18 per cent of the approved schemes.