April 2017 \ Cover Story \ COVER: POLITICAL INTERVIEW
“Within one year we’ll demonstrate results on Ganga cleaning”

Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Ms Uma Bharti has the task of delivering

 We remember a two-page advertisement in national newspapers about two years ago released by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG). It listed hundreds of industries, the majority in UP, that had violated effluent treatment norms and were polluting this great river. How do you deal with such industries?

It is only when you start working towards solving a problem that you realize how deep the problem is. Closing down industries is not the solution. Zero liquid discharge is the solution. A large number of effluent treatment plans need to be set up. But more crucially, what needs to be worked out is where the last discharge point of the chemical effluents is going to be. The industries start from Bijnore and end up in Varanasi. The last discharge is the most dangerous. Once we can enforce the principle of zero-liquid discharge and identify where to dump it, then things will work out. I have had several rounds of talks with the National Highway Authority of India and wanted to know whether we can dump the treated effluents and then build roads on that. Talks are going on in this area. I had also engaged with the previous UP Government and wanted to know if we can create large pits outside industrial areas, but not within city limits, where the effluents can be dumped. There are a multitude of industries, and there are slaughterhouses too. I experienced that the previous state Government was not cooperative at all. In fact they painted a communal colour to this entire programme. I can tell you that the industries were ready for zero liquid discharge. When I had a meeting with the industry representatives, I did not call them to shut down their premises. I told them that they would only use water from sewage treatment plants, and not water from Ganga. They agreed. I told them that after use, they would be required to recycle that water. They agreed. After that the issue of salt came up, there would be tons of it in the discharge. It would be very dangerous. So we needed to find a solution for dumping it. 

So where does the matter stand today?

I plan to sit down with the UP Government after things have settled down. I’ve asked the NMCG to collect case studies of similar projects on rivers across the world. We want to know how some nations succeeded in keeping industrial pollutants away from their rivers. The previous state Government in UP was not cooperative at all, and you know that 1,100 km of the Ganga passes through UP alone. The most dangerous and poison-spewing industries are in UP. We have a sewage discharge problem also. The sewage from big cities in Uttar Pradesh like Kanpur and Allahabad, to name a few, has been indiscriminately finding its way into the Ganga.