Eco Friends’ primary activity has been to highlight the issues of environmental degradation and sensitize and organize the public around these issues. To a large extent, Eco Friends has been successful in drawing all round national and international attention about the nature and impacts of pollution of the river Ganga. It is well known that in the course of its 2525 odd km long journey, Ganga becomes most polluted at Kanpur.
In addition to community organizing and educational successes, Eco Friends has led and catalyzed several civil society actions that have had a significant impact on stopping further pollution of Ganga. Sustained activism by Eco Friends has caused governmental agencies at various levels to be more responsive, transparent and pro-active regarding environment and pollution related issues. Following is a list of some of Eco Friends most important achievements to date. While many issues remain unresolved and the magnitude of the problem may seem daunting, these past achievements give us hope that we can continue to make future progress towards a clean Ganga and healthy environment in Kanpur.
Eco Friends made people pro-active and sensitive towards environmental issues: Eco Friends has attempted to bring the issues of environmental degradation in sharp focus in Kanpur. It has been a pioneer in highlighting concerns relating to pollution of the river Ganga at Kanpur. Gradually, we have been able to garner support of the media and citizens. Eco Friends has with its modest resources succeeded in leading and catalyzing several successful campaigns and related activities having a significant impact. Eco Friends has forced the governmental agencies at various levels to be more responsive, transparent and pro-active regarding environment and pollution-related issues.
Chrome-tanning units have set up Chrome Recovery Plants (CRPs): Eco Friends has been carrying out a campaign to put pressure on the tanneries in Kanpur to tap chromium at the source by installing Chrome Recovery Plants (CRP). It should be noted that the high-pitched campaign carried out by us has forced the government agencies and the polluting tanneries to take urgent steps in the speedy resolution of the matter. There are 200 odd chrome-tanning units in Kanpur. These units are a cause for concern as they discharge chromium into the waste stream, which ultimately finds its way either into Ganga or to agricultural farmlands. Out of these 200, 100 units process more than 50 hides per day and are required to install CRPs individually. Almost all of them have set up CRPs.
A Common Chrome Recovery Plant has come up for small units For the remaining 100 chrome tanning units which process less than 50 hides per day, a Common CRP has been set up.
Scientific landfill site is completed for toxic tannery sludge: Thousands of tonnes of hazardous tannery sludge have been / are being indiscriminately dumped in Jajmau and Rooma village, requiring steps towards a safe and scientifically approved disposal method. As a result of a writ petition filed by Eco Friends on this matter in 1997 and consistent activism and community organizing around safety issues concerning toxic tannery sludge produced by the 36 MLD Common Effluent Treatment Plant (CETP), Allahabad High Court has directed the government to ensure safe disposal of the toxic sludge. A scientific landfill site has come up for the safe disposal of the toxic tannery sludge at Rooma.
Electric crematoria in Kanpur are functional now: There are three electric crematoria, two in Kanpur (Bhairon Ghat, Bhagwatdas Ghat) and one in Unnao (Mishra Colony). Two crematoria, one in Kanpur and the other in Unnao were set up under GAP (Ganga Action Plan), but were functional for a short duration only. However, these had proved to be non-starters and were lying like white elephants. Due to Eco Friends’ consistent campaigns and pressure at the local government to ensure the functioning of two of the electric crematoria, which are located at Bhairon Ghat and Bhagwatdas Ghat in Kanpur. Now both these crematoria are functional.
Safe water supply in the villages of Jajmau: In villages in the vicinity of Jajmau, irrigation water inadequately treated at wastewater treatment facilities (created under GAP) remains contaminated with raw sewage and tannery effluent. This water has not only reduced agricultural productivity, but has also entered the groundwater and contaminated the drinking water source, causing severe health problems among the villagers. Due to the pressure mounted by Eco Friends through protests, rallies and sit-ins, the government took note of the problem and has begun work to supply safe drinking water to the affected villages of Jajmau. Two deep tube-wells have been installed. One tube-well has already started supplying clean and safe drinking water to five villages with approximately 10,000 people. These helpless villagers were forced to drink highly contaminated water laced with heavy metals like Chromium. Now they’re getting safe water from 1,400 ft depth. The other tube-well is also complete and will soon start supplying safe water to 9 villages.
Schools become pro-active: Because children will ultimately bear the burden of today’s pollution, Eco Friends has undertaken environmental education as a primary activity. Eco Friends has organized various mass movement and awareness programs in schools, involving lectures, workshops, and field visits to pollution hotspots along Ganga. More than 40 important educational institutions have come out with a charter of activities for raising environmental awareness and contributing directly to river pollution abatement activities. Many of the schools have started regular activities related to environmental awareness.
Massacre ghat gets a facelift: Eco Friends has adopted Massacre ghat as a model ghat and example of what all ghats along Ganga should aspire to become. Our regular clean-up drives and awareness programs at Massacre ghat have vastly improved the aesthetic environment at the ghat. The number of people visiting the place has increased substantially. At our request, Cantonment Board has installed a new lighting system, improved the road leading to the ghat, and planted trees, and taken many other steps to improve and beautify the ghat. Rotary Club of Kanpur Greater has installed dustbins at the ghat at our request.
Hindu bodies are now given a burial along Ganga banks: Eco-Friends has achieved notable success in changing centuries-old practice of body dumping into the river. River cleaning physically by volunteers of the organization dramatically awakened the citizens to this disgusting practice. There is a visible change amongst many who were simply floating dead bodies into the river. They are now burying them along the river instead. Because Hindus typically cremate their dead or float them in the river, this switch to burial is a revolutionary change.
National Advocacy: Reports sent by Eco Friends to different governmental and non-governmental agencies have been well received. Different agencies have lauded Eco Friends on its pioneering efforts to investigate the extremely hazardous nature of tannery effluents. The Regional Representative of United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), New Delhi, Director of Central Leather Research Institute (CLRI), and the Chairman of Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) have echoed their concerns at our report. They have also assured us full support in our campaign.
Press Coverage: Most national dailies (Lucknow Editions and in some cases New Delhi editions) including The Times of India, The Hindustan Times, The Pioneer, The Telegraph, Danik Jagran and Amar Ujala, Jansatta and others have given adequate coverage to the activities of Eco Friends. Many of the newspapers have also initiated their own investigation into the functioning of the Ganga Action Plan, thereby helping to generate public pressure for plugging the loopholes in GAP. Down To Earth has also given coverage to Eco Friends’ activities from time to time. Eco friends made national headlines in Star News of the Star Plus television station. Channel BBC in its programme -- ‘Business India’ -- highlighted the serious nature of Ganga pollution as highlighted by Eco Friends.
Aaj Tak news, Sahara TV, ETV, and All India Radio have covered the pollution problem in Jajmau villages, the illegal sand mining operation in Kanpur, the status of the Ganga Action Plan, and Eco Friends activities such as Ganga cleaning campaigns and public hearings.
Doordarshan in its program “Teesri Aankh”, Star News and Star Plus in its programme “Aaj Ki Baat” covered Eco Friends’ dead-body retrieval exercise conducted from time to time. Star News and Star Plus also highlighted the IIT Kanpur Test results and the public hearing conducted at Jajmau.
Eco Friends activities have also received international recognition. A team of American journalists also visited Kanpur to do a story on the pollution in the Ganga and the activities carried out by Eco Friends, and German filmmakers interviewed Rakesh K Jaiswal of Eco Friends regarding Ganga pollution and its effect on the citizens of Kanpur in the making of their film. Smithsonian magazine of USA did a feature on Ganga, highlighting Eco friends’ contributions.
Eco Friends forms partnerships with various organizations: The Senior police officials have extended full cooperation to help Eco Friends clean river Ganga and take punitive action against the turtle poachers and other polluters of the river. Directions have been issued to all the Police outposts situated along the river stretch between Bithoor and Jajmau to perform their duties for river protection activities.
The Municipal Commissioner of Kanpur has also joined hands with Eco Friends in its commitment to cleaning the Ganga of pollution. Eco Friends and KNN have jointly formulated a series of activities targeted at cleaning the Ganga.
Ganga Pollution Control Unit, UPJN came forward to help Eco Friends in its awareness drives. As a response to the extreme toxicity of the pollutants depicted in Eco Friends’ IIT Test results, the Zonal Office of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has conducted a joint study of the wastewater samples from treatment plants in Jajmau and Unnao to ascertain the levels of various pollutants. CPCB is also preparing an inventory of chemicals being supplied to tanneries. This would explain the presence of heavy metals like Cadmium, Lead, Mercury and Nickel.
Participation of Eco Friends in GAP Review Meetings: Eco Friends has become a permanent invitee to attend the Progress Review Meeting for GAP, Kanpur. Our team members have been putting forth the concerns of Eco Friends on the functioning of the Ganga Action Plan during the meetings and insisting on the implementation of corrective measures. Eco Friends hopes that periodic direct interface with the governmental agencies concerned would help in gradually overcoming the shortcomings of the Ganga Action Plan. GAP is reviewed periodically and is more transparent and participatory now.
Campaign against polybags: Eco-Friends has been leading a campaign against the manufacture and indiscriminate use of polybags since 1997. This resulted in Uttar Pradesh Government making the littering of polybags a punishable offence in 2001. Recently, Kanpur Nagar Nigam (Kanpur Municipal Government) has published informational pamphlets on the regulations and proper use of polybags to shop owners and consumers.
Environmental Management Plan for Kanpur: Eco Friends conducted an opinion poll on the civic problems and lack of infrastructure in Kanpur in 1998. Following the results of the poll, Eco-Friends launched Kanpur 2001, a campaign demanding a white paper on various civic problems and an action plan from the local authorities to address them. Concerns of the campaign were incorporated in the subsequent action plan of the Kanpur Development Authority (KDA) Kanpur-2010. Also, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) invited the comments of Eco-Friends in the formulation of an Environmental Management Plan for Kanpur.
Plan for further Development along the Ganga is defeated: The Kanpur Development Authority’s plan to create a large township in the river bed (reclaimed land) has been put in cold storage for the last 8 years. This is due to Eco Friends high-pitched campaign and representations to the Prime Minister opposing further urbanization and industrialization along the Ganga.
Eco Friends launched “Adopt your Street”: Eco Friends piloted a program to create a model street in Shardanagar area of Kanpur. We adopted a 500 m stretch of road and hired street cleaners to properly dispose of solid waste in the area. Containers and handcarts were donated by Kanpur Nagar Nigam (Kanpur Municipal Government). The residents, schools, government and business organizations located on this street, including 100 slums, are required to pay a small amount to support the program. Many streets in the area have expressed their interest in the project.
Public Interest Litigation: As a result of the Public Interest Litigation filed by Eco-Friends in the Allahabad High Court in 1997, several landmark orders have been passed to address critical issues of pollution of the river Ganga and initiate concrete action to address the limitations of GAP I. These include orders to close more than 250 polluting industries, require that all GAP assets such as waste treatment plants, pumping stations and crematoria be provided with an uninterrupted power supply, create a Ganga Fund (in the pattern of the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund), conduct monthly water quality testing at places that receive heavy pollution load, audit and evaluate GAP phase I, clean and monitor several ghats, ensure safe disposal of the toxic sludge at Jajmau, and form various committees to monitor GAP, ensure compliance, and oversee the execution of GAP II, both within the government and with the participation of local communities. More recently, Eco Friends has filed a case regarding illegal sand mining occurring in Kanpur. This case was presented before the Central Empowered Committee, a bench of the Supreme Court of India, in March of 2004 that directed the counsel for the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests to immediately send a fact-finding team to investigate the matter. In addition to our work in the Supreme Court, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has lodged cases (Case No. 25499/24/2002-2003/OC, 260/24/2003-2004/OC, 15160/24/2003-2004/UC) on the basis of the reports that we had sent to them.