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Nov 17, 2006 at 08:54am IST

Ganga Action Plan is full of gaps

New Delhi: India's most ambitious river cleaning project, the Ganga Action Plan (GAP), is a colossal failure. The project is 13 years behind schedule.

In a startling admission to CNN-IBN's Special Investigation Team, the legal counsel to the Central Pollution Control Board, Vijay Panjwani, has revealed that despite spending Rs 20,000 crore to clean the Ganga, the river remains polluted.

This indictment of the Ganga Action Plan comes from the very man who is supposed to defend it in the Supreme Court.

"It is 2006 and we find that the Ganga waters remain as dirty as ever. Today the position is that all the thousands of crores that have been spent on the cleaning the river have literally gone down the drain," he says.

Panjwani also alleges widespread corruption in the handling of the Ganga Action Plan.

"Implementation of GAP is being used for personal gain. It seems that the money for the wastewater treatment is going into the pockets of contractors, bureaucrats and politicians," he alleges.

At Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh's industrial hub, the failure is most evident. Tanneries here regularly contaminate the Ganga with chrome, and yet strangely, chrome treatment plants set up by the Government lie unused.

Says environmentalist Rakesh Jaiswal, "This plant cannot be used till the tannery owners install pits to separate the chrome discharge. It's a waste and it should have been operational 10 years ago."

Also, a pumping station at the tannery Jaiswal is talking about - meant to filter out solid sewage and pump water into effluents before they flow into Ganga - is not in operation.

When asked since when has the machine not been working, a worker at the plant gives an ambiguous answer, "Abhi thik kar rahe hai." (It is being repaired now).

Scientists from IIT Kanpur tested the Ganga water for CNN-IBN and this is what they found.

Says one of the scientists, Dr Padma Vankar, "When we tested the water, we saw that the test tube had turned blue, which indicates the presence of chrome. Chrome cause all kinds of diseases."

And not just chrome. These colourful test tubes also indicate the presence of iron along with chrome in the Ganga waters.

The 2006 official audit of the Ganga Action Plan describes how Rs 900 crore of tax payers money has been misused.

bullet The 2006 official audit of the Ganga Action Plan says the Plan has met only 39 per cent of its target of sewage treatment.
bullet It also shows that Phase I of the Plan is behind schedule by over 13 years.
bullet It further says that every state government involved has grossly misused GAP funds to the tune of more than Rs 36 crore.

Even the River Conservation Authority that oversees the Plan and is headed by the Prime Minister has not met since 1997.

If you thought the Ganga is holy you may want to think again. The banks of the river are covered with sludge and animal carcasses and the stench is unbearable.

Be a Citizen Journalist: If you have images or videos of the Ganga being polluted, mail them to us at citizen@ibnlive.com

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