New Delhi: The environment ministry on Wednesday announced a new strategy for conservation and rejuvenation of major river water systems, stating that focus will now be on the entire river basin compared to the current strategy that only looks at tackling pollution load from domestic wastewater and regulation of industrial pollution.
The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by Union minister for environment, forest and climate change (MoEFCC) Harsh Vardhan.
“The present strategy for conservation of rivers is limited only to tackling pollution load from domestic wastewater and regulation of industrial pollution. The new approach is a holistic one for rejuvenation of rivers, wherein water management and environment management are taken together for implementation to restore the lost ecology of the polluted stretches of the rivers," Harsh Vardhan said.
According to India’s nodal pollution watchdog, the Central Pollution Control Board, there are 302 stretches along 275 rivers in the country that are polluted, based on Bio-Chemical Oxygen Demand, a critical parameter of water quality. This is primarily due to discharge of untreated municipal sewage and industrial effluents into the rivers.
The minister also called a meeting of five states—Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal—to work out an implementation plan for the Ganga river basin at the earliest.
Stating that a tentative action plan has been drawn up, the minister explained that “to begin with, we need to try it out on a few stretches in the country covering sub-basin or catchment area of river".
Harsh Vardhan said institutions like the IITs will be entrusted with the task of preparation and finalization of river basin management and rejuvenation plans for the selected stretches.
“Since sewage into the selected river stretches is the most significant polluter, projects to treat it will be taken up immediately," he added.
The environment minister stressed that under the conservation plans, “sewage treatment will be made mandatory along the identified stretches".
“Since enforcement of provisions of the Water Act and Environment (Protection) Act comes under the local bodies in respective states, the environment ministry plans to set up a sewage management system with private participation," an official statement added.
Some of the other actions under the new strategy include “watershed management, construction of small check-dams along the catchment area, scientific assessment of quantum of environmental flow in each stretch, rejuvenation of lakes and wetlands along the river basin and protection of floodplains from encroachment".
During the meeting, Harsh Vardhan also considered a detailed presentation by Forest Research Institute on a project related to forestry interventions for the Ganga. The project report prepared by FRI for Catchment Area Treatment of Ganga river covers five states—Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal—at an estimated cost of ₹ 2,500 crore.