New Delhi: The cleaning of solid waste like clothes, parts of dead bodies from the surface of the mainstream of Ganga will begin in January next year, the Centre said today.
The process has been broken down into four parts, with the first being surface cleaning of the river, which would begin from January next year, Secretary, Water Resources Ministry, Shashi Shekhar said.
"We will go ahead with entry-level activities for cleaning Ganga in four parts. First is surface cleaning. Several types of solid waste can be found in the river, clothes, parts of dead bodies. So, our priority is to clean the mainstream of the river from January and hopefully, visible, ocular impact of the same can be seen within a year," Shekhar said on the sidelines of first Indo-European Water Forum being held here.
He said that public sector undertakings (PSU) will be roped in for the surface cleaning as tenders for the purpose received poor response.
Shekhar said besides surface cleaning, the Ministry will be engaged in three other entry-level activities of repairing ghats along the river stretch, modernising crematoria and recycling sewage water flowing into the river from over three thousand villages on the banks of the river.
"There are around three thousand gram panchayats along Ganga. We have conducted surveys in some of the villages in Varanasi, Allahabad and Kanpur. Between 10,000 and 50,000 litres of untreated sewage is flowing into Ganga per day.
"This, we will need to treat and recycle for irrigation purpose as this is not industrial, but biological load and can be used for irrigation purpose. We will have to do it in a cost-effective way that panchayats can afford to run the treatment plants when we hand it over to them," he said.
Shekhar said an order is expected from the government on treating of municipal sewage on public private partnership basis to ensure guarantee of performance.
Majority of the existing STPs along Ganga are being looked after by municipalities which lack capacity and resources to operate the plants, Shekhar observed.
"The government will pay annuity to private parties engaging in such partnership with government with the duration of contracts planned being 15 years. Tendering process for the same should begin from April-May," he said.
He further said Centre may seek crowd funding in case the Rs 20,000 crore allotted for the Namami Gange initiative turns out to be insufficient.
Among other issues, the official stressed on the need to ensure adequate water remains in the river so that it performs its ecological functions and made a strong pitch for a scientific study in this regard and also cited example of similar studies carried out in Murray Darling and Danube rivers in Australia and Europe respectively.
"It is very necessary to have a scientific study on how much river water should be diverted and how much should flow. Whatever study has been carried out in rivers abroad, it can't be replicated here. So, we need to conduct study on our own to study seasonal variation, silt flow, different species in dolphins, crocodiles," he explained.
Shekhar also batted for stricter legislation on the lines of European Water Policy in India to ensure that the resource is valued.
"They (EU) identified problems, held discussions with riparian states and it was followed with a common law for (EU member states). After the law was framed, they signed agreement which is legally valid now. After the same, they formed Commission whose word is respected," he pointed out.