Varanasi: The Ganga Action Plan in Varanasi has failed to clean up the holy river. Inspite of a grassroots plan to save the river in this region, the Ganga at Varanasi continues to choke to death.
Confluences of rivers are sacred in Hinduism but not in Varanasi it seems, where the Asi river now known as Nagwa Nala meets the Ganga.
“It’s so dirty that you can't even stand here. It stinks all the time,” a boatman says.
Today, the Ganga is in a living hell because there are 30 sewers that dump sewage into the river just a half-a-kilometer upstream of Varanasi.
The water treatment plants, set up under the Ganga Action Plan in the 80's, are supposed to divert Varanasi's sewage for cleansing but daily power cuts make them ineffective.
And while these plants have a daily capacity of 100 million litres a day, Varanasi today generates 250 million litres of sewage daily, so most of it simply flows into the river.
But the faithful still use the river to cleanse their sins. “People say the Ganga is pure. The sewage comes but it still stays pure,” a devotee says.
It is not just the sewers that are polluting the river, there are people searching for valuables, sifting through ashes from the pyres of the Manikarnika cremation ghat while dead bodies are thrown straight into the river.
“If a man dies of snakebite we put the body into the river as it is, in the hope that is cured,” a curator says.
But there are people in Varanasi who have solutions to these problems like Veer Bhadra Mishra, mahant of Sankatmochan Temple, who is an engineer by training and has given the UP government an alternate plan to treat Varanasi's sewage. Nine years later, he's still to hear from the authorities.
“In other cities I think the municipal authorities have not done that much amount of work. But in Varanasi we know the solutions then why can't they implement it?” Mishra asks.
Mishra runs a lab and has countered official claims that the Ganga Action Plan has been successful in Varanasi.
The water is tested regularly for levels of organic pollution and his comments on the Ganga Action Plan are scathing.
“We have failed in conceptualisation, planning and execution. Without diagnosing the disease, medicines were prescribed,” Mishra says.
The Ganga waits for deliverance at Varanasi as sewage is dumped into it. However, the question that arises now is will the river of salvation ever find its own deliverance in Varanasi?
(With inputs from Rohit Khanna)
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