Safeguarding River Ganga through the doors of India and Bangladesh: Causes and Suggestions
Water is a kind of natural resource. The Himalayas are the source of three major Indian rivers namely the Indus, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra. Ganga has been a cradle of human civilization since time immemorial. Millions depend on this great river for physical and spiritual sustenance. People have immense faith in the powers of healing and regeneration of the Ganga. It is a well known fact that Ganga is an International river spread through China, India, Nepal and Bangladesh. It springs up from the Gangotri on the southern slpoe of Himalayan range. From this point, it traverses south and southeastward in India for about 1,400 miles. About 11 miles below Farakka, India, it forms the common boundary between India and Bangladesh and continues about 63 miles before finally entering Bangladesh near Rajshahi.
Since Ganga is an international river and it spreads into more than two countries, there needs to be a treaty or agreement for the purpose of proper utilization of water resource as water is a scare resource. At one point of time, when there was no such barrage, there was no question of sharing water of Ganga but as Farakka Barrage was constructed in 1975, some major question arose as to how water will be shared between India and Bangladesh, who would control the gate of Barrage etc.
For the proper utilization of water and maintaining harmony, some agreements, treaties and Memorandum of Understanding has been signed by both the countries. Thus, the agreement of 1977, Mou of 1982 and 1985 and later the treaty of 1996 are made, regarding distribution of water of river Ganga.
Ganga has two major dams. One is at Haridwar, built at the time of Britishers in 1854 to irrigate the surrounding land. Second is Farakka Barrage through which water enters into Bangladesh. There has been a dispute between both the countries regarding Farakka dam’s water of Ganga. One more dam is proposed to be built on the upper reaches of a tributary of the Ganga. It is proposed that it would be highest dam of the world and will be built with collaboration of USA.
In the contemporary scenario, the position of this sacred river does not hold well due to no. of natural and manmade reasons. From the first agreement in 1977 to till date 2012, no. of initiatives has been taken by India and Bangladesh as well for the protection of river Ganga. Ganga Action Plan was one of them taken by India at the time of Rajiv Gandhi government. Efforts at the end of Mr. M.C.Mehta, a great Socialist and Lawyer, are also appreciable in the context of protection of river Ganga.
Causes of Desiccation of river Ganga:
I. Climate change:
Climate change is causing this holy river to dry up. “If the current trends of climate change continue, by 2030 the size of the glaciers could be reduced by as much as 80 per cent”. Ganga is fed by the glaciers of Himalaya but due to globalization, these glaciers are melting so fast that in coming future, they may have devastating consequences. If this continued for a long time, there might be chances of floods. The people living near by the area of river might have to suffer a lot. One more effect of this global warming is that the salted water is also mixing with the fresh water of this sacred river and which is affecting the water supply for more than 500 million people, for the purpose of drinking. In this sphere, efforts are being done from some environmentalist like Mr. Mehta for reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
II. Industrial and Domestic Water Pollution:
Domestic Water Pollution is also an essential issue causing desiccation of river Ganga along with Industrial factor. Improper sewage management is not a new phenomenon and New Delhi alone produces 3.6 billion liters sewage daily from which only half is treated for proper sewage management. More than 140 industries are situated around the river Ganga and some of the industries like leather industries, pharmaceutical industries, textile and fertilizers manufacturers producing large amount of chemicals, acid, pesticides and chromium waste flowing such wastes in the river, which, in turn, causing spoiled water supply and ill health effects. This issue has been taken by the Apex Court of India but still, we are unable to stop them completely.
III. Idol immersion:
In India, majority of the religions believe the river Ganga sacred and it is a ritual to submerge the idol in the Ganga. Though, it is a ritual but it is polluting the river Ganga to an extent. It can be seen at the time of Durga Pooja in Navratri, especially in the West Bangal and Patna, to immerse the idol of Maa Durga in the Ganga. In this context, a ray of hope is seen to be coming by the decision of Allahabad High Court on October 20, 2010 in which, Uttar Pradesh Government has been served with a notification for banning the use of polythene in the vicinity of the river and Later on 25 October, 2010 Calcutta High Court also directed the Kolkata Port Trust and Municipalities to follow the guideline framed by the West Bengal Pollution Control Board (WBPCB) for cleaning up the river Ganga after immersion of idols.
IV. Hydroelectric projects:
India major Hydroelectric Projects in the upper reaches of the river also affecting the river Ganga. Irregular or unregulated water extraction for various purposes like industry, farming or hydroelectricity is causing unsustainable water levels. “In the downstream reaches now there is no flow in the river at all. It's not good. The river has a right to live and a right to sufficient water flows. India is not India without the Ganges”. In all, 12 large and medium hydroelectric projects are functioning, some are under construction or some are proposed. Ecologists and local groups have warned that if all the projects are executed, there will be no free- flowing water for about 250 km of India most holy river.
V. Depositing human remains:
Hindus have a sacred practice of depositing the human remains in the river Ganga, after the death of the person. It is believed to be a sacred but in reality, it is polluting the holy river Ganga as it is posing health threats to the people using the water for drinking purpose along with fauna. One shocking fact is, people who are not able to perform funeral, throw the body of the deceased into the river. I personally experienced that people do not even hesitate to throw the flower garlands, foams, Sindoor and such things, which are of polluting nature for this sacred river but it can be presumed that they do such things as they have closed their eyes.
Soil Characteristics of Ganga Basin:
The Ganga basin consists of a wide variety of soils.While soils of the high Himalayas in the north are subject to continuous erosion, the Gangetic plain provides a huge receptacle into which thousands of meters of thick layers of sediments have been deposited to form a wide valley plain. The Deccan plateau on the south has a mantle of residual soils of varying thickness arising out of weathering of ancient rocks of the peninsular shield. Some of the soils are highly susceptible to erosion. Mountain soils, submontane soils and alluvial soils, covering 58 % of the basin area, have very high erodibility; red soils covering 12% of the basin area have high erodibility, red & yellow soils and mixed red and black soils covering an area of 8% have moderate erodibility, and deep black soils and medium black soils covering an area of 14% have low erodibility Shallow black soils and lateritic soils covering an area of6%have very low erodibility.
Legal Regime under India and Bangladesh for protection of river Ganga:
The first agreement between India and Bangladesh was worked out in 1977, in which, following things were decided:
· Sharing period would be from 01 January to 31 May divided into 15 slots each having 10 days.
· Sharing was on the basis of 75% dependable flow at Farakka between 1948 to 1973.
· Sharing proportion of Bangladesh and India was 60:40 respectively with a minimum flow of 34,500 for Bangladesh and 20,500 cusec for India. In case of decrease in flow at Farakka under extreme situation. Bangladesh was guaranteed with 80% of its share during each of the slots.
· Regional co-operation for augmenting the flow at Farakka was agreed upon and the augmented flow would be shared proportionately.
Subsequently, Two Memorandum of Understanding were signed, first in 1982 and then in 1985. When this MoU of 1985 expired in 1989, then India denied entering into any treaty or agreement and finally, the treaty of 1996 was entered between the countries on 12 December. The following things were decided in this treaty:
· Proportion of sharing between Bangladesh and India is 45:55 and in some cases the proportion will be 30:70
· During the period from 1 March to 31 May the sharing will be on the basis of so called hydraulic cycle when one side will have 35000 cusec guaranteed flow and the other side will receive rest of the flow. In such a cycle when the flow is 50,000 cusec when India will receive 35,000 cusec and Bangladesh will receive only 15000 cusec.
· When the flow falls below 50,000 cusec no sharing principle will exist, Bangladesh and India will sit immediately to decide equitable sharing.
· The same principles will be applied to the sharing of flow of other common rivers.
This treaty of 1996 is based on the Principle of reasonable and equitable sharing of water, guided by the principles of equity, fairness and no harm to either party. Presently, this treaty is in effect and Article VIII of the said treaty gives a glimpse for maintaining harmony between the two which is “The two governments recognize the need to cooperate with each other in finding a solution to the long term problem of augmenting the flows of the Ganga during the dry season”.
No. of orders have been passed from time to time against polluting industries. In M.C.Mehta v. Union of India, petitioner prayed for the writ of mandamus for the purpose of restraining respondents from disposing the trade effluents in the holy river Ganga in order to save the river from pollution. Initially court directed the issue of notices, directing the industries and respondents, not to dispose the trade effluents and sewage in river respectively, without treating them appropriately. Later on, court held that the tanneries at Jajmau, Kanpur cannot be allowed to continue to carry out work without establishing primary treatment plants.
In one more adjoining case of M.C. Mehta v. Union of India, the court held that Nagar Mahapalikas and Municipal Boards are responsible primarily for the maintenance of cleanliness in the areas under their jurisdiction and the protection of their environment. Few directions were issued by the Apex Court, which are as follows:
1) The Mahapalika should take action under the provisions of the relevant bye laws and direct the dairies either to be shifted or arrange for removal of waste from the existing dairies.
2) Take steps to lay sewerage line and increase size of existing ones in labour colonies.
3) Construct sufficient number of public latrines and urinals to prevent defecation on open land.
4) Ensure that police take steps to see that half burnt bodies or dead bodies are not thrown into the river.
5) The Government both the state and the centre and the Union territories may promote consciousness of cleanliness.
6) Create national awareness about the deterioration of the environment.
On 21 November, 2011, the founders of Ganga Seva Abhiyan and the members of National River Ganga Basin Authority undertook effective measures from the centre and the state government, for saving the sacred river Ganga. A compaign was also organized in this connection.
The controversy over the Tipaimukh Dam is not a new phenomenon now. In 2009, when the news about the plan to build the dam was released, there was a strong protest from Bangladesh. At that time, issue was much heated but during the September, 2011 visit of our Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh to Bangladesh, he assured that no action will be taken by India for Tipaimukh Dam, which harms the interest of Bangladeshis. Even after that, strong protests were notices in Bangladesh from political parties. The issue was more highlighted when Ms. Mamta Benarjee denied accompanying Mr. Manmohan Singh to Bangladesh during this trip. The reason known is regional political pressure because earlier also, an agreement between India and Bangladesh to the Teesta river (situated in Bangladesh) failed to implement due to intervention of Kolkata, ruling state of Ms. Mamta Benarjee.
I. Reduction in Green House Gases emission:
The first and foremost step in order to save river Ganga from flood and salinity is to reduction in the emission of carbon die oxide, methane, nitro oxide and ozone. Today, these king of gases are releasing in the environment in such a huge amount that temperature of the earth is increasing day by day. This increasing temperature is causing melting of glaciers. A reduction of such gases is necessary in order to save the environment as well as river Ganga from flood and the melting water will ultimately mix up with the existed water of the holy river.
II. Proper Treatment of Domestic Wastes and Shifting of Industries from the Banks:
For saving the river Ganga, a proper treatment must be given to domestic wastes before floating them into the river. These wastes include all kinds of things which are injurious to health. Sewage is also a prominent issue. It is a very shocking fact that sewage is also drifted in this river. On the one side, people consider it sacred but on the other side, such kinds of things are taking place.
Court is doing enough well in this sphere of transferring the industries from the banks of the river Ganga in order to save it from pollution. Recently, in a judgement, court has ordered for shifting of 100 tanneries from the bank of this river. Still it cannot be said that enough treatment has been done.
III. Taking Caution in Hydroelectrical Projects:
Hydroelectrically Projects are being made by India for the purpose of development. Farakka Dam is one of them thorough which water of river Ganga enters into Bangladesh. Recent controversy over the issue of Tipaimukh Dam is also belongs to hydroelectrical projects. These hydroelectrical projects cause unsustainable water levels at various places. In order to reduce the unsustainable water levels, hydroelectrical projects should be constructed very cautiously.
IV. Restriction on Idol Immersion:
Though idol immersion is a sacred practice but it should be restricted because it is polluting the river Ganga. Idols with lots of garland and other things are immersed into the river. These affairs affect the sanctity of the river and pollution led to the ill effects on the health.
V. Depositing Human Remains:
Depositing human remains in the holy river Ganga is also considered as sacred practice among hindus. The ashes of the human body affect the fauna. This practice should be stopped because a deceased will not desire to bear ill effects on faunas.
VI. Public Awareness and Community Support:
Increasing awareness is an important factor which can resolve the issue of desiccation of river Ganga. If people are made aware for not polluting the river and community supports the same motion, then river can be protected from being polluted further. Campaigns should be done for spreading the awareness. They should help in saving the cause, by any possible means.
In the end, the researcher would like to conclude that the Treaty of 1996 provides for the good relations between the two countries at all levels regarding water sharing. There are some specific Articles in the Treaty of 1996 which provides that harmony has to be maintained. The researcher found that there was avoidance on the part of India, whenever, a proposal of entering into any agreement regarding sharing of water of river Ganga came. History speaks for it. Not accompanying the Prime Minister to his Bangladesh Trip in 2011 by Ms. Mamta Benarjee also supports the same contention. Though, there is no as such reason behind it, except rumors, India has to deal it with caution.
It is true that major part of river Ganga originates and flows in India but still, we will have to take an appropriate approach for sharing the water of river Ganga because Bangladesh always had a misconception that India is harming their interest. The protest started by some political parties speaks for the same. There are total four agreements, MoU and Treaty till date from post independence time but no one from them can be said perfect in order to maintain good relations.
Strong initiatives are needed at both the ends so that development of both the countries can be carried on in terms of irrigation facilities etc. Ganga Action Plan was a good initiative on the part of India for the protection of river, which can be quoted here as an example. Though it failed, still it has good objectives.
All the causes for the desiccation of river Ganga should be taken into consideration for creating an approach or rather eco friendly approach, for the purpose of defending the sanctified river. Prevention strategies are there in order to ensure and save the river Ganga from further pollution and desiccation. Now what matters is serious implementation of these strategies. Community support is the major one which can contribute for development of India and restrict the others from being polluting the river anymore.
Bangladesh and India are neighboring countries. The relations maintained between the two are not only under water sharing but also under other spheres like trade, migration etc. I would like to end with Oriya Proverb: "Jal bahule srustinasa, jalabihune srustinasa."
"Too much or too little water destroys creation."
# The report, titled “Up in Smoke -- Asia and the Pacific”, released in November 2007.
# Mr. Mehta, Socialist and Lawyer
# Agreement of 1977 between India and Bangladesh
# The Treaty of 1996
# AIR 1987 SC 982
# AIR 1987,SC 1086
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