Deputy Mayor of Kanpur Chetana Sharma shares her views on Ganga pollution with Eco Friends. She makes no bones about the fact that neither the administration nor the government has taken any initiative to contain the pollution in river Ganga. Excerpts from an interview:

You were born and have been brought up in Kanpur. What changes have you witnessed in the Kanpur environment over the years?

Chetana Sharma: A lot. Most of it being negative. In 1972 when we shifted to Kidwai Nagar, the ambience was very pure and the traffic movement was very smooth. I used to reach my school/ college situated at Birhana Road in about 15 minutes. Today, it takes more than one and a half hour to reach the same place. Such is the traffic congestion. There were very few buildings and there was Sanjay Van which was extremely green. But now, all that has changed.

You must have seen Ganga in Kanpur from very close quarters during your childhood.

Chetana Sharma: Ganga was very beautiful. It was very clean and we used to take bath in Ganga. We also used to go to Bithoor to feed the fish.

Have you got accustomed to living in the most polluted city in India?

Chetana Sharma: No, not at all. To reduce pollution, we should formulate pollution-abatement plans. But it is not enough to formulate plans until and unless the administration and the government takes interest in implementing them.

What about public participation?

Chetana Sharma: That’s also equally important. I mean, all the three -- the administration, the government and the people – will have to join hands to solve the problem of Ganga pollution or any other environmental problem that the city faces.

How long have you been in the Kanpur Nagar Nigam?

Chetana Sharma: Around eight years.

What steps have you taken to make Kanpur’s environment better?

Chetana Sharma: In Ward 45 (Kidwai Nagar), I have been instrumental in changing the face of parks which had been neglected and where pigs were in plenty. Now these parks provide a green lung to the area. Efforts are also on to conserve Sanjay Van. I have spoken to the Forest Minister and he has assured us that he is going to help us in the conservation work.

Why do most government schemes to tackle environmental pollution fail?

Chetana Sharma: No government can implement a scheme effectively if there is lack of awareness. The public and the administration has to work together with the government to bring about success of a plan. The NGOs have a big role to play in making the public aware. Eco Friends has been doing that and I really appreciate its endeavours. However, I also feel that we need a huge budget to tackle the city pollution. Let’s take for instance the Ganga pollution. Many drains are directly falling into Ganga. We must devise a plan by which the wastewater in these drains is first treated and then allowed into the river. Also, the tannery effluent is a major cause of concern. The tannery waste is finding its way into the Ganga.

Is the administration taking enough initiative to close down the polluting leather-making units?

Chetana Sharma: Everybody knows how efficient the administration is. The tannery units have installed treatment effluent plant but they do not run it. Clearly, there is some manipulation that the tannery owners are resorting to. The tanneries continue to empty their waste and foul the river. Also, there are illegal colonies that have come up on the edges of the Ganga. There should be green belt in place of these colonies.

The tannery waste water is also being directed to the downstream villages.

Chetana Sharma: Yes, I recently visited these villages. The villagers are suffering from skin problems. Some of them have become almost handicapped. A few can not walk. Their eyesight has also been affected.

In such a backdrop, do you think that the irrigation tax that is being levied on these villagers justified?

Chetana Sharma: No way. They should stop charging tax from the hapless villagers immediately.

How do you envisage a plan for Ganga that can bring back its lost glory?

Chetana Sharma: First and foremost, the drains that carry domestic sewage and tannery waste and fall into the Ganga have to be stopped. Recently, there has been a plan to divert the drains towards Pandu river, which is a tributary of Ganga. But such a plan is preposterous. Ultimately, it comes back to square one because you are polluting a water body which will meet Ganga downstream.

What are your impressions on the Ganga Barrage?

Chetana Sharma: I keep reading about it in the newspapers. It is being hoped that the Barrage will be ready by October 2003. But I have doubts that it would.

What do you have to say about the dumping of worship materials and dead bodies in river Ganga?

Chetana Sharma: There are so many temples in the city and these generate a lot of worhip material. If we collect all the flowers and phoolmalaen (garlands of flowers) and put them in a pit, it will turn into good quality manure. As far as floating of dead bodies is concerned, it should be completely banned. The dead body dumping is done on religious grounds but we should make the people understand that these bodies get decayed and are a feast for the dogs and other animals.

What would you like to appeal to the people?

Chetana Sharma: Don’t throw your garbage and waste into Ganga. Please save it. There is still hope.


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